Sunday, December 21, 2014

Favorite Albums of 2014

Once again, it's that time of year again where I dedicate my listening to records that were released or reissued during the calendar year, and compile a list of my favorites. From the looks of things that I have read so far on the Best Music of 2014 lists, the general consensus would lead you to believe that there are only twenty records worth listening to in 2014.  I think that the majority of the popular blogs and magazines share playlists with each other so they can all compile lists that cater to the mainstream listener's idea of good music. It's really unfortunate that this happens, as a plethora of fantastic music was released this year that will sadly not be heard by the general public.

As of the beginning of December, it would seem that Thom Yorke's controversial decision to release Tomorrow's Modern Boxes via the "pay what you want" platform on Bittorent would be the story of the year in music. However, the glory would be taken from him by the ever enigmatic soul pioneer D'Angelo.

After being emotionally shell-shocked by the grand jury verdict on the Michael Brown case, and the ensuing Ferguson protests, D'Angelo called up his manager Kevin Liles to express his frustration, and then they just sat there quietly for awhile. Kevin sensed that D'Angelo wanted to get his message out there, so they pushed the release date of Black Messiah forward. On the Friday before the release date, social media started blowing up with a flood of messages containing cryptic six second teaser clips, and pictures of the finished album, indicating that a new record from D'Angelo was soon to be a reality. An announcement was posted late Friday evening saying that the first single from the record was going to premiere on iTunes on Sunday, and the entire album was available for everyone to hear by Monday morning. And that, my friends, is the top story of the year in music.

Aside from these two major musical events, this was the year that hip-hop music turned a new leaf. Artists started focusing on creating impressive lyrical content, and taking time in the studio to craft records with production that can stand up to the best in the game. While there are still plenty of artists that are talkin' loud and sayin' nothin', there are many artists that are choosing to make a positive difference like Dres (Black Sheep), Pharoahe Monch, Bishop Nehru, Black Milk, Jeremiah Jae, Souls of Mischief, Ka and Diamond District. They all represent a new trend in hip-hop: creating positive, intelligent music that resonates with a wider scope of listeners. With the recent events that have occurred with two separate grand juries failing to indict police officers for killing two unarmed black men, we need hip-hop now, more than ever.

With artists being able to share their music through online outlets like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, it's pretty difficult to tell how many albums were actually released during the year.  But, there are way too many that go unheard because the mass media chooses to ignore them. This list represents my favorite releases of the year, and is a result of countless hours spent scouring sites such as Rate Your Music, Aquarium Drunkard, Raven Sings the Blues, jhubner73 and Soundeyet for the true diamonds in the rough.

This year's list features a wide variety of genres, but most of those that have been well represented on previous lists such as jazz, electronic and avant-garde are pretty scarce this year. While I still appreciate these styles of music, I just didn't discover much that was worth sharing this year, and I really didn't hear much of it in the first place. Most of the albums on this list are from artists that have shown up on previous lists, but about 1/3 of them are new discoveries. My hope is that after reading this list, some of you are moved to buy one of these artists' albums, or go see their live performance when they come to your town. We need to keep supporting the artists that we appreciate to ensure that they can sustain themselves, and keep making great music! 

I present to you my favorite albums of 2014:

1) Steve Gunn- Way Out Weather- I'll admit that I wasn't quick to succumb to the charms of Steve Gunn's music, but I could no longer help myself after hearing last year's stellar outing Time Off. This year, on Way Out Weather, Gunn has crafted an exceptional record that ebbs and flows like an ocean tide, leaving a lasting impression on the listener. It has elements of Gunn's early instrumental work, but mostly solidifies his position as a pre-eminent singer songwriter for the ages.



















Buy it here! 

2) Souls of Mischief- There Is Only Now- Ever since '93 Til Infinity, the debut record by Souls of Mischief, dropped in 1993, I have been waiting with bated breath for their imminent return. With prolific producer Adrian Younge behind the boards, Souls of Mischief have effectively crafted an essential hip-hop record based on the early 90's sample-based production, but have done so without using any samples. After listening to this multiple times, I still catch myself thinking that a guitar riff or piano chord are taken from another record: a true testament to the production expertise of Adrian Younge.


















Buy it here!

3) Jolie Holland- Wine Dark Sea- I read a post on Jolie's Facebook page last fall saying that she had finished a record with an excellent live band, and that it was the best band that she had worked with yet. When I first read this, my initial expectations were that she would be going back to the sound of Escondida or Springtime Can Kill You.  Because this seed had been planted in my mind, I was not very forgiving, and dismissed the record without really giving it a chance. Then, after I  listened to it repeatedly, something finally clicked. What was then revealed to me was a dynamic, heavy and bittersweet record with biting guitar solos that come out of nowhere, and incisive lyrics that are the culmination of a woman who has been down a long and winding road.



















Buy it here! 

4) Thee Oh Sees- Drop- For regular readers of the blog, it probably comes as no surprise that Thee Oh Sees made my list this year. After hearing the news that the band was going on indefinite hiatus last year, I was skeptical that I would ever hear a new record by Dwyer and his merry band of pranksters. Alas, four months later, they have emerged victoriously from the depths of the studio armed with a record that retains the rampant energy of Floating Coffin, while letting the vocal melodies rise more to the surface, ultimately revealing a band who continues to be at the top of their game.


















Buy it here!

5) Deerhoof- La Isla Bonita- Deerhoof's last record Breakup Song narrowly missed the list back in 2012, but to leave them off this year would be an injustice. On the cheekily titled La Isla Bonita, the band has managed to temporarily dial back their affinity for electronics, in favor of the bubbly, frenetic pop-punk spliced with noisy guitars and scattershot drums that their fans know and love. Whether you are drawn to Satomi's playful vocals, or the effortless way that the band switches the tempo at the drop of a hat, you will undoubtedly be moved to listen to this record again and again.












 





Buy it here!

6) Shellac- Dude Incredible- Every time Shellac release a new record, it's a cause for celebration. While they aren't the most prolific band around, they definitely make up for it in consistency. On their latest excursion into angst-ridden stop-and start noise rock, Albini and company have essentially created a musician's wet dream, with Todd Trainer's kick drum practically jumping out of the speaker and the phenomenal bass and guitar interplay between Albini and Weston being almost too much to behold. The word "intensity" doesn't even do this band justice. Just listen, and let the sound envelop your ears.









 








Buy it here!

7) Black Milk- If There's a Hell Below-I have been highly anticipating this record ever since I heard the first single "What It's Worth" on bandcamp. After already releasing the phenomenal EP Glitches in the Break earlier this year, I wasn't expecting to hear another record from him until later next year, but Milk continues to confound expectations. With If There's a Hell Below, Black Milk has managed to craft a timeless hip-hop record that is listenable from beginning to end with quality guest performances from artists such as Blu and Pete Rock. While his prowess behind the boards has always been impressive, it's the lyrical flow he possesses on this record that is destined to earn him accolades from even the harshest critic.This is the record that I listened to the most this year, and it undoubtedly deserves any praise that comes its way.



















Buy it here!

8) Meatbodies- S-T- This is the debut from Chad Ubovich, the touring guitarist for Mikal Cronin and the bassist for Fuzz. While this record doesn't go to great lengths to separate itself from the garage-rock scene that birthed Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, it somehow manages to carve out it's own little world with an arsenal of sludgy guitars, pummeling drums and anthemic vocals that will be difficult to shake from your memory.


















Buy it here!

9) Angel Olsen- Burn your Fire For No Witness- On Angel's follow-up to the spare and naked Half Way Home, she has almost completely changed her sound, while retaining the themes of despair and hopelessness that were a cornerstone of her debut. These songs have intensity, but the quivering, dissonant vocals from previous recordings are merely a footnote from Olsen's past. This time around, aside from a few notable exceptions, she has put the focus on crafting an entire album of remarkable, punchy songs that showcase her considerable talents as a vocalist and songwriter.


















Buy it here!

10) Medicine- Home Everywhere- Despite the popular belief that shoegazer music must contain the sound of a female or male's voice buried beneath layers of static and distorted guitars, Medicine's latest record manages to subvert the genre, and flip it onto it's head.  Most of these songs start pretty normally, only to switch tone or direction when the listener least expects it, giving them the audio equivalent of vertigo. There are so many musical ideas packed into this phenomenal record that it will literally make your head spin.


















Buy it here!

11) Hail Mary Mallon- Bestiary- When Hail Mary Mallon (the rap duo featuring Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic) released their first record Are You Gonna Eat That, I was fairly disappointed. For a talented lyricist like Aesop, I was expecting it to reach the heights of his solo output, but it was sorely lacking in both lyrics and production. Flash forward a little over three years, and the dynamic duo is back with a vengeance. On their second long player Bestiary, Rob Sonic has stepped up his lyrical game ten-fold, Aesop's verbally dexterous wordplay is on-point and the dynamic production makes the album flow perfectly from beginning to end.


















Buy it here!

12) White Fence- For the Recently Found Innocent- Much like other stalwarts from the garage rock scene such as Ty Segall and Sic Alps, Tim Presley of White Fence has taken the creative leap of cleaning up his production, and making his latest record For the Recently Found Innocent, dare I say, accessible to a  larger audience. As is usually the case, first impressions can be misleading. When I first heard this record, I thought the melodies and production were too polished, but multiple listens revealed an incredibly infectious rock and roll record with elements of psych, folk, garage and pop. Those who are looking to get into White Fence, but find the lo-fi production of his previous records off-putting, will find plenty to enjoy here.



















Buy it here!

13) Leo Welch- Sabougla Voices- I happened upon Leo Welch by chance, as I caught his performance at one of the smaller stages during the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival last summer. Prior to this, I had never been exposed to his music. Thankfully, I have remedied this now, as Sabougla Voices is one of my favorite  discoveries of the year.  He plays a gritty, raw blues with gospel undertones that is somewhat reminiscent of  masters of the juke-joint blues like Famous Renfroe and RL Burnside. There aren't too many classic blues artists around these days, so do yourself a favor and give this a spin.


















Buy it here!

14) Quilt- Held in Splendor- Quilt's debut narrowly missed my list a couple years ago, but I couldn't deny the euphoric feeling I get when I listen to their latest effort Held in Splendor.  The counter-harmonies of the two lead singers is majestic, while the rest of the band provides the perfect accompaniment to fit each song like a glove. For the most part, this is melodic folk-rock with swathes of psychedelia and a couple guitar rave-ups to keep everything interesting. The production is crisp and clean, but it doesn't sound hyper-compressed like 99% of contemporary music on the radio. If there were any justice in the world, Quilt's music would be blasted over the radio airwaves on a regular basis.


















Buy it here!

15) Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band- Intensity Ghost- Hot on the heels of his spectacular debut record Solar Motel, Chris Forsyth and the rest of the musicians that make up the Solar Motel Band have considerably ramped up the fervency on their latest LP Intensity Ghost. It goes without saying that it would be commercial suicide for most bands to start a record off with an eleven minute track, but the opening track "Ballad of Freer Hollow" manages to hold the listener's attention by traversing the landscape of classic rock, punk and post-rock, while demonstrating a clear sense of dynamics and skilled musicianship. That the band can reference old source material from iconoclastic groups like Television and The Grateful Dead, yet maintain a true sense of originality, is what makes them such a treasure to behold.


















Buy it here!

16) Budos Band- Burn Offering- At first, the mixture of bright horns and heavy guitars on the Budos Band's latest record didn't work for me, but I eventually changed my tune. It's been awhile since I've been really psyched about a record on Daptone records, so I was happy to discover that this record sounded amazing.   I heard that the band had been influenced by a lot of hard rock and metal during the recording of Burnt Offering, so I was interested to see how they would incorporate this into their funk-based sound. All I can say is that they were able to pull off an end result that in the hands of a lesser band would be practically insurmountable. If you like funk, afro-beat, psych or hard rock, you will find something to sink your teeth into here.


















Buy it here!

17) Woima Collective- Frou Frou Rokko- Back in 2010, Woima Collective's debut Tezeta made my list of favorites for the year, and as long as they keep releasing records of such high caliber like their follow-up Frou Frou Rokko, they will continue to have a spot reserved in my year-end lists. There are a wide range of musical styles on this record that include afro-beat, Ethiopiques, groovy funk and jazz. On certain songs like "Malaria", you may think that the classic players from the Ethiopiques 4 compilation were all brought together for an all-star jam session, while songs like "Le Petit" sound like the Afrika '70 band recruited Sean Keuti and Tony Allen to recreate their classic afro-beat sound. Overall, this is a record that will continue to reveal new things to you each time you listen to it.


















Buy it here!

18) Wildest Dreams- S-T- Strangely, this acid-soaked crate digger's dream of a record is not a reissue, but a new release from an artist who previously dabbled mostly in disco and house music. The vocalist and creator of the band, Harvey Bassett,  has essentially recruited the musicians necessary to perfectly encapsulate the sound of late 60's psych and 70's boogie rock/funk with plenty of reverb-heavy effects and extended guitar solos to satiate the appetite of any self-respecting vinyl junkie or psychedelic head-tripper.

















Buy it here!

19) Ava Luna- Electric Balloon- Imagine what would happen if Prince, Talking Heads and Deerhoof got together to make an album, and then you will have a better idea of what to expect from Electric Balloon. I've always appreciated bands who confounded my expectations so it probably isn't surprising that Ava Luna's second record is right up my alley. What I love about this record is that right when the band seems to be locked into a certain groove, they take the song in a completely new direction with a discordant guitar riff or a sudden change of tempo that throw the listener for a loop. With tight musicianship, exceptional melodies and an eclectic batch of songs, you simply can't go wrong with this record.



















Buy it here!

20) White Poppy- Dorval and Devreaux- From beginning to end, White Poppy's latest album is a revelation. Ethereal, enchanting, melodic, beautiful and intoxicating are all superlatives that I can use to describe the sound of it, but these barely scratch the surface as to the true feeling conjured up within these eight songs. While the lyrics were clearly an afterthought, as the vocals are buried under the hazy wall of bass, guitar, synths, they are still a significant part of the sound. This is repetitive, trance-inducing music to get lost in, and reflect about your place in this world.


















Buy it here!

21) Jakob Scott- Amor Fati- For those of you who have visited Eclectic Grooves over the years, it will come as no surprise that I'm not the biggest fan of music largely composed with synthesizers. With that said, it may come as a surprise to you that I'm endorsing the second record from Jakob Skott (the incredibly prolific and talented drummer from Denmark's Causa Sui) despite the fact that it's largely synth-based. Even without the scorching guitar solos and bass playing of his fellow band members from Causa Sui, Skott manages to captivate the listener's attention with a diverse array of effects pedals, analog synths, drums and organ. What results is a dazzling, technically proficient record that combines the best of kraut-rock, prog, electro-acoustic, ambient and jazz.


















Buy it here!

22) Steve Palmer- Unblinking Sun- After hearing the backwoods finger-picking intro, the last thing listeners would be expecting to hear is the propulsive, energetic kraut-rock of "Cassini:, but that is exactly what they get on the second track from Steve Palmer's latest record. Elsewhere, the mellow string-plucking on "Banjo Burner" eventually gives way to an array of reverb and echo effects, the desert blues of "A Dime's Worth of Analine" evokes Neil Young's atmospheric score of Dead Man and the combination of rattling percussion, skronky guitar and wheezing harmonica on "Plastic Mouth" is as unsettling as Krzysztof Penderecki's haunting score to The Shining. This is American Primitive music that pushes the envelope of that genre until it's completely fallen off the table.


















Buy it here!

23) Karl Hector and the Malcouns- Straight Ahead- There is no shortage of bands evoking the spirit of classic Afro-Beat from the 70's, but Karl Hector and the Malcouns expertly juxtapose funk, psychedelia and afrobeat to a dizzying affect on their latest LP Straight Ahead. Even though the album is a bit long at just   under sixty minutes, it manages to shift from genres effortlessly while creating a seamless flow between the tracks. This is an invigorating record that you will undoubtedly turn to when you are looking for something with a stone-cold groove.


















Buy it here!

24) Diamond District- March on Washington- Diamond District is a super-group of sorts featuring the veteran producer/rapper Oddisee, Uptown XO & yU the 78er.  Lyrically, this album is innovative in that it refuses to fall victim to the common tropes of contemporary hip-hop, and instead focuses on positivity, spirituality and dreams.  Each of the rappers have their own distinctive flow and delivery, but yU the 78er stands out from the rest in my personal opinion.With a characteristic blend of old-school soul, electro boom-bap and jazzy samples, the production on this record is a refreshing return to the sound of Golden Age hip-hop. 



















Buy it here!

25) Julie Byrne- Rooms With Walls and Windows- I don't remember particularly exactly how I came across this record, but it's a sure-fire winner. Ever since Chan Marshall of Cat Power decided to abandon her early sound featuring yearning vocals and evocative lyrics filled with despair and regret, an empty void has been left in the female singer/songwriter genre that needed to be filled. On Julie Byrne's debut record, she has accomplished this feat without a doubt. This is the sad, expressive and honest songwriting that most people claim Sharon Van Etten is capable of, but is clearly light years ahead of Van Etten. 



















Buy it here!

26) Causi Sui- Pewt'r Sessions 3- I have to thank Jhubner for introducing me to the ever-expanding sonic universe created by Causa Sui, including solo efforts from multi-instrumentalists Jonas Munk and Jacob Skott. Even though this isn't even technically a proper release, I would be remiss if I left it off the list. What this trio from Denmark specialize in is slow-burning psychedelia that eventually explodes into a frenzied cacophony of blistering guitars, spastic percussion and pummeling bass lines. With only three songs on the record, it leaves little room for error. But, the three members of Causa Sui have mastered the concept of dynamics with the slow tempo of the first two songs setting the stage for the epic, head-spinning twenty-six minute closer "Incipiency Suite". If you haven't listened to Causa Sui yet, you need to make up for lost time. 



















Buy it here!

27) Elisa Ambrogio- The Immoralist- Most of you won't be familiar with the name Elisa Ambrogio, but if you followed the trajectory of her career with the noise rock pioneers Magik Markers throughout the last decade, you know that you never know what to expect. While the first couple tracks on her latest offering feature mellow instrumentation and beautiful melodies, "Mary Perfectly" features a more aggressive guitar tone and distorted vocals where "Clarinet Queen" has a propulsive rhythm that ultimately culminates into a wall of sound. It's a perfect mix between the angst-ridden punk of the early days of Magik Markers with their new-found interest in sublime melodies and textures. 




















Buy it here!

28) Fire Orchestra- Second Exit- I don't get exposed to nearly enough jazz these days, but I had to include the live version of the Fire Orchestra's Exit on this list for the simple fact that it's the most manic, unbridled, off-the-hinges improvisational jazz that I've heard in quite some time. The vocals from Mariam Wallentin are more up-front in the live version, and at times evoke the shrill pitch of Pere Ubu's David Thomas. Of course, any project that Mats Gustafsson is a part of is worth your time, but this recording is the second-best thing to experiencing the band's electrifying live performance. 




















Buy it here!

29) Flying Lotus- You're Dead-  Previous Flying Lotus albums have featured a little bit of the jazz influence that was natural for an artist who happens to be Alice Coltrane's nephew, but never before has he incorporated jazz to this extent, even featuring the great Herbie Hancock on "Moment of Hesitation". In addition to the jazzy tracks throughout this eclectic album, FlyLo also delves into electronic, hip-hop, prog and soul. It's a very mesmerizing listening experience that will leave you a bit shell-shocked, though glad that you embarked on the adventure. 


















Buy it here!

30) Parquet Courts- Sunbathing Animal- While this album lacks the melodic one-two punch of Light Up Gold's "Master of My Craft" and "Borrowed Time", it features plenty of feverish punk rock with incisive lyrics that cut right to the bone. With the centerpiece clearly being the basking-in-the-sunlight summer jam "Instant Disassembly" with it's catchy but repetitive rhythms, Parquet Courts have written a track that will resonate with generations to come. Even without this track, the album is a perfect follow-up to Light Up Gold, as it doesn't repeat past achievements just because they worked fine the first time around.


















 
Buy it here!

31) D'Angelo and the Vanguard- Black Messiah- After waiting fourteen years for the follow-up to Voodoo, the entire world was listening to D'Angelo's latest record three days after the initial announcement that the album was coming. It was as if our dreams had finally been answered, and the messiah had come forward with his new prophecy. According to the musicians and engineers who played a significant part in the recording process of Black Messiah, a lot of the music was recorded over a decade ago, making this even more incredible that the music on it is especially relevant to the current state of racial tension and police brutality in the U.S. I haven't had a chance to really delve into the record yet, but after a few listens, it's already clear to me that D'Angelo's latest offering has the potential to reach the heights of his past efforts.



















Buy it here!


32) Ty Segall- Manipulator- Keeping up with the recording output of Ty Segall can be a fool's errand. On his latest offering, he has successfully meshed the sound of all of his previous albums into one behemoth of a rock album filled with the amped-up guitar sound from Slaughterhouse and Melted, the acoustic goodness  found on Sleeper, the frenzied guitar solos of his side-project Fuzz and the majestic melodies found on Melted and Goodbye Bread. At a whopping 56-minutes, this is almost too much of a good thing for your ears to handle!


















Buy it here!

33) Noura Mint Seymali- Tzenni- This record has obvious similarities to the Tuareg sound of Tinariwen, but Seymali's vocal melodies are more varied from song to song than Tinariwen, and her guitar solos are given the space to weave imaginative tangles of psychedelic sound. This was released during the first quarter of the year, so it nearly slipped beneath my radar. Thankfully, this was one of a few new things I discovered on Aquarium Drunkard's year-end list.


















 Buy it here!

34) Rhyton- Kykeon-  Those of you who aren't familiar with the name D. Charles Speer, will probably not be aware that he was also a founding member of the avant-garde collective The No Neck Blues Band.  Outside the realm of both of these projects lies the propulsive, exotic Middle-Eastern and Greek-flavored post-rock that takes flight for the duration of this album only to land on solid ground by the end of the journey. The sublime blankets of sound found on this record are positively transcendental.


















Buy it here!

35) Fumaca Preta- S/T- Upon first listen of Fumaca Preta's self-titled debut, you might think that you are listening to a lost Brazilian psych record from the late 60's, but instead it's a new release from the twisted mind of Portugese-Venezuelan auteur Alex Figueira on the always consistent Soundway Records.
Alex Figueira
The album that Figueira created with an assorted cast of characters is a breath of fresh air in an industry stuffed with homogenized acts who all want to sound exactly like one another. Fumaca Preta are able to channel the psychedelia of Os Mutantes and Caetano Veloso while peppering their sound with futuristic space-age effects, killer drum breaks and blazing fuzz guitar.


















Buy it here

36) Pharoahe Monch- P.T.S.D- The highly anticipated follow-up to Pharoahe Monch's last album W.A.R. has finally come to fruition this year, and it was clearly worth the wait. On P.T.S.D., Monch possesses a lyrical depth that is rare in contemporary hip-hop, but it makes sense considering that he got his start with the pioneering hip-hop act Organized Konfusion back in the early 90's. Recording the tracks for this album was clearly a labor of love for Monch, as he was battling an addiction to prescription drugs for his asthmatic condition, and experiencing side effects such as depression and anxiety. The resulting album is an emotional, mental and cathartic ride through the artist's ups and downs, ending with a trilogy of tracks that celebrate his ability to overcome depression and addiction in the face of adversity. Emotionally bare and honest songwriting like this is practically unheard of in the current landscape of hip-hop, but Monch created this record to let others who are experiencing some level of depression, addiction or mental disorder know that they aren't alone.



















Buy it here!

37) Orlando Julius and the Heliocentrics- Jaiyede Afro- It's been a big year for The Heliocentrics with the collaboration record with Melvin Van Peebles coming out a couple months ago, and this record with the extraordinary Nigerian saxophonist Orlando Julius being released in September. Their trademark production that favors a reverb-heavy sound is present on a few tracks, but most of these tracks are straight-up classic afro-beat that will have you tapping your feet to the infectious rhythms.


















Buy it here!

38) Jeremiah Jae- Good Times- With producer/rapper wunderkind Jeremiah Jae's latest record, he has managed to create a conceptual record that seamlessly ties together key snippets of dialogue from the 70's television show Good Times to tell personal stories about the current state of affairs in Chicago. With Oliver the 2nd's impressive verbal dexterity and a cast of others from the Black Jungle Squad, Jeremiah has crafted an underground hip-hop record featuring rare soul samples that act as if they are another part of the ongoing dialogue. This is still gritty hip-hop with a propensity for profanity, but it's balanced out with good vibes that are perfect for a summertime drive.


















Listen here!

39) King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard- I'm in Your Mind Fuzz- With the recent switch to Dwyer's Castleface records, and naming their new record I'm In Your Mind Fuzz, you pretty much know what to expect from this slab of wax from King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard. What you might not expect is the addition of harmonica to the garage-rock intensity of the opening song "I'm In Your Mind". While the band definitely have an affinity for the no-holds-barred rock of Thee Oh Sees, they retain their own brand of wonked-out, surf-inflected spazz-rock that would definitely be a blast to see at a live performance.

Buy it here!

40) Lorelle Meets the Obsolete- Chambers- The debut record from this Guadalajaran husband-wife duo entitled Corruptible Faces made my list last year, and it would be doing them a disservice to leave them off this year. Chambers features a wall-of-sound production that channels shoegaze, kraut, psychedelic and garage while burying the lyrics just enough to retain a significantly haunting presence.


















Buy it here!

This concludes my year-end review for 2014. If you would like to hear songs from any of the records that are featured on this list, please leave a message for me in the comments. 

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

All Hallows Eve



















The 2014 Halloween edition of the I Hear a New World Podcast is available to listen to here, and to listen/download at http://ihearanewworld.podomatic.com.

Every year around the first of October, I start compiling another batch of songs for the Halloween podcast. After scouring through a massive folder filled with tracks that barely missed the cut from previous mixes, I completed the final track sequencing a couple days ago. While I was in the process of adding the tracks into Audacity today, it crashed right before I was about to add the last song. Damn computers!  I had been working on this for over 2 hours, and had lost my entire project.  While I felt like throwing in the towel, I powered through and recreated the entire mix in Audacity, though this time I saved my changes every time I added a track. I guess this is all part of the creative process, but it certainly threw a monkey-wrench in my day.

Those of you who recall my mix from last year, will be glad to know that this year's mix is almost as creepy as that one. While I have thrown in a few novelty songs to balance out the flow, I still wouldn't encourage you to listen to this mix with the lights off.

Please listen responsibly, and remember to pay close attention to the danger lurking just around the corner. Oh, and let me know what you think of the mix by leaving a comment.

Until next time...

All Hallows Eve Mix

1) Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson- Drive to the House
2) The Poetics- Wylde Child
3) Thee Cormans- Spider and the Fly
4) Horsebladder- Pioneer
5) Umberto- Black Candles
6) Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds- Haunted Head
7) The Fresh & Onlys- Invisible Forces
8) Chrome- Night of the Earth
9) Louise Huebner- The Self Fascination Ritual for Increased Power
10) Mica Levi- Lips to Void
11) Propergol- Hand in the Furnace
12) The Abstracts- Nightmare
13) The Mad Daddy- Werewolf Poem
14) Gary Warren- Werewolf
15) Bernard Fevre- Monster Laboratory
16) Frank Reidy and Eric Allen- Cobwebs
17) SPK- Genetic Transmission
18) Graveyard 5- The Marble Orchard
19) Beat Happening- Gravedigger Blues
20) Sharkey Todd & His Monsters- The Cool Ghoul
21) The Replacements- Willpower
22) Nine Inch Nails- Ghosts II-15
23) Coil- Something
24) Magik Markers- Circle
25) Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson- Outside the House

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On the Horizon

















Before I let the month of September slip through my fingers, I wanted to let you all know about that projects that I will be working on in the near future. Some of these, I hope to complete in the next several weeks, while others may take a bit longer to come to fruition. First, back in 2011, I had started compiling a mix of songs to listen to while driving through the desert at night. It was tentatively titled Desert Mariachi Swing Mix, but was shelved for the past three years. Truth be told, my perfectionism stepped in the way of progress, rearing its ugly head once again. Damn you, perfectionism!

Another post that has yet to be completed is one that has also been on the back burner for awhile called "The Evolution of Hip-Hop" where I plan on exploring the true pioneers of the rap game such as The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaata, etc. This will likely be a multiple-part series that touches on the highlights of hip-hop in relationship to how each song or album directly impacted my life. Next, is a potentially large-scale project focused on the music that played a significant part in shaping the culture in Portland such as Paul Revere and the Raiders, Ural Thomas, Dead Moon, The Wipers, Heatmiser, etc.

If this wasn't enough to get you excited, I also plan on reintroducing a couple of the series that have featured on here in the past called Rediscovery of Lost Gems and Concerts From the Vault. Additionally, a couple new features are in the works, one that will feature a series of posts on my favorite guitarists, and another that will focus solely on females who have positively impacted the world of music over the past century.

Finally, I have started working on compiling a new Halloween mix for 2014, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for another genuinely scary batch of tunes. 

These are going to be exciting times at Eclectic Grooves so I hope you guys keep your ears to the ground and check back regularly.

Today, I'm going to leave you with a link to a song by AFRO called Definition of a Flow as well as a YouTube clip of him freestyling over a DJ Premier beat. I'm sure you will agree that this kid has the skills to pay the bills.


Monday, September 29, 2014

OCD- Obsessive Coincidental Discovery

Before my already fading memory fails to recall the details, I wanted to share my recent experience of a coincidental music discovery. I was at two concerts in the past month that both referenced the music of a particular band in two very distinct ways. I'm being ambiguous as I don't want to divulge the band name until I get to that part of the story.

The first part of this story takes place at the Wonder Ballroom. On this particular occasion, I was going to check out the Breeders, as I had missed the opportunity to see them when the original lineup played Last Splash in its entirety for the 20th anniversary of the album's release date. While this story isn't intended to focus on the Breeders, I have to at least say that they were in fine form, playing like a band who knows exactly what they need to do to get the crowd fired up. They played a rapturous set filled with fan favorites like "Last Splash", "Divine Hammer" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", as well as deep cuts from all three albums, and even a few new songs that will hopefully show up on the new record.

It was a phenomenal set that could only be enhanced further by the music that played immediately after the band left the stage. While I typically feel like the choppy transition of music directly after a show jolts me out of the experience I was having, the venue definitely got the music right tonight. The herky-jerky spastic new wave/punk song that played immediately after the Breeders set sounded perfect to my ears. It was a euphoric tune with a catchy chorus that was familiar to me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on where I had heard it before. Thankfully, due to the latest technological advances, I was able to find the song with the Shazam app on my iPhone. It was a track by Devo called "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise". While I was never the biggest fan of Devo when I was growing up, I always liked the sexually charged 80's hit "Whip It" and their incredible rendition of the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction".  Until now, aside from these tracks, I'm afraid that I've been greatly unaware of the greatness that is Devo.














Devo: The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise
From: Duty Now For the Future [1979, Warner Bros]

The second part of my story takes place at the recent Built to Spill show at the Crystal Ballroom. In the middle of their set, they played a track that I'd never heard before. While Doug Martsch has an extensive repertoire of songs in his arsenal, I was fairly sure that this wasn't an original song. After the show, I searched the internet to see if Built to Spill's recent playlists indicate that they have played any covers. Sure enough, they had covered Devo's "Gut Feeling/Slap Yer Mammy" at a couple shows in the past month. I searched YouTube for "Gut Feeling" and was happy to discover that this was the song that they covered the other night.













Devo: Gut Feeling/Slap Yer Mammy
From: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! [1978, Warner Bros]

Sometimes I wonder if the universe intends for certain songs and/or bands to land in your stratosphere at a particular time in your life. While I hadn't given Devo much of a chance up to this point, I will definitely have fun making up for lost time. It just goes to show that you never know when, where or how you are going to discover new music, you just have to keep your mind and ears open to the possibility.

I would love to hear about any of your stories about similar musical discoveries, so drop me a line in the comments.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Choice Cuts Vol.7















It is once again time for me to reach back in the refrigerator for some "choice cuts". Each time, I will be featuring sizzling and succulent morsels that are grabbing my ear right now that range from funk to country, from afro-beat to garage rock, etc. Sometimes there will be a theme to these songs that ties them all together in a nice bow, but other times the songs featured will just be a musical hodgepodge of eclectic delights. Without further ado, lets see what "choice cuts" the vinyl butcher has prepared for us today.

Peter Green: Bottoms Up
From: End of the Game [1970, Reprise]











I can't believe that the last time I posted a Choice Cuts episode was July of 2013. How time flies, regardless of whether you are having fun or not. This is a special Choice Cuts episode as it only features one song. I feel that this song is so great that it deserves its own post.

Over the past several months, I have listened to many songs, none of which have impacted me to the same extent as as Peter Green's "Bottoms Up". When I first ran across this song, it wasn't while digging in the crates at one of my local record stores, or while searching for tunes within the plethora of music blogs that I had earmarked for further exploration, but while listening to the new Portland independent radio station XRAY.fm.

It was the beginning of June, and my former employer had enlisted me with performing the mind-numbing task of administering their technical knowledge base. In order to prevent myself from falling into a stupor due to extreme boredom, I needed some music to keep my head in the game.  I had been checking out some of the radio shows on XRAY.fm, and became particularly fond of one called Going to Bed with Morning Remorse. I can't recall when I first listened to the show featuring Peter Green, but it had been broadcast in the previous week or two, and archived for everyone's listening pleasure. Considering that the set started out with the whacked-out electro-funk of Bruce Haack seamlessly segueing into the psychedelic wonder of Animated Egg, I should have been prepared for the mind-blowing track waiting patiently in the wings.

As the final strains of Michael Chapman’s epic folk song"The Aviator" faded out, the bass line of Peter Green's "Bottoms Up" unassumingly enters the scene. After some introductory noodling, the song starts to really build some steam around the minute mark, with each beat of the drum moving it along at a steady clip. Around the 2:30 minute mark, Green's solo takes off, and reaches for the heavens. All the while, the rhythm section increases the tempo to unbelievable heights, only to slow things down completely at the 3:30 minute mark. At this point, a subtle rhodes piano works perfectly with the undulating bass line and skittering drums. This goes on for about a minute, until the funky bass line congeals with the drums, rhodes piano and Green's otherworldly, effects-heavy guitar.  At the six-minute mark of the song every single member of the band is firing on all cylinders, creating a sound that literally sends chills up and down the listener's spine. While the rest of the album features some interesting experimental rock, there is nothing else that comes even close to the level of musicianship of "Bottoms Up".

I’m sure that you will agree that it’s worth the price of admission alone to take this ride with Peter Green. Bottoms up, indeed!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Mix 2014

It's once again time for the annual summer mix on Eclectic Grooves. This time around, the tracks were compiled from various sources:  a summer funk mix on mixcloud, a few recommendations from a DJ friend of mine and several selections that barely missed the cut on last year's summer mix.   Overall, this mix is way more funkdafied than previous ones, with small servings of rock, African high-life, reggae and hip-hop to balance out the proceedings.

As usual, my hope was to post this mix much earlier in the summer, but at least you will have the entire month of August to enjoy these savory summer jams. If there is anyone who still checks out Eclectic Grooves, I would love to hear what you guys think of this year's mix.

Summer Mix 2014

1) The Breeders- No Aloha
2) The Creation- How Does it Feel to Feel
3) Skull Snaps- It's a New Day
4) Camp Lo- Luchini (aka This Is It)
5) Spider Harrison- Beautiful Day
6) Googie Rene Combo- Smokey Joe's La La
7) Cross Bronx Expressway- S/T
8) The Clarendonians- You Won't See Me
9) Ibo- Ayamma
10) The Equals- Baby Come Back
11) Willie Bobo and the Bo Gents- Broasted or Fried
12) James Gang- Funk #49
13) The Latin Brothers- Dulzura En Sol
14) The Niteliters- Traveling-Listen Here
15) Lulu- Love Loves to Love Love
16) Tony Joe White- Polk Salad Annie
17) Television- Untitled Instrumental
18) Elijah and the Ebonites- Hot Grits !!!
19) Spanky Wilson- Sunshine of Your Love
20) Gene Harris and the Three Sounds- What's the Answer
21) Pete Rock and CL Smooth- They Reminisce Over You
22) Beach Fossils- Gathering
23) Sic Alps- Low Kid

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Hear a New World Vol.22

The latest edition of I Hear a New World is available to listen to here, and to listen\download at http://ihearanewworld.podomatic.com/.

After a long period of silence, I am happy to say that I am back again. Sadly, events beyond my control have prevented me from compiling and recording a new podcast during the past few months, but I have a feeling that this podcast will more than make up for my absence.

Today's podcast is mostly inspired by the eclectic radio shows featured on the new Portland radio station http://xray.fm. Since its inception a couple months ago, I have been obsessively listening to a few of these shows such as Live Vinyl Treats, Hot Fudge Sundaze  and Headbanded. Afterwards, I usually find myself scouring through my hard drive looking for songs, extemporaneously compiling mixes on the fly that would be perfect for this podcast. The range of tunes on this edition of I Hear a New World run the gamut from free-jazz funk, folk-jazz, hip-hop, psychedelic, electro-acoustic, whacked-out country, instrumental funk, etc. If you are down with this one, you will most likely enjoy the new direction in sound that I will be taking in the future. I have already completed 3 more mixes in the same vein that will hopefully be posted soon.

Addendum: I neglected to mention a couple other Xray.fm shows that are definitely worth checking out:  Backroad to Nowhere and 'Buked and Scorned: The Gospel Radio Hour. 

I Hear a New World Vol.22

1) Bill Spencer- The Jackson's Part 1&2
2) Ros Serysothea- Chnam Oum Dop Pram Muy (I'm 16)
3) The Flys- Love and Molotov Cocktail
4) Neo Boys- Dirty White Lies
5) Darondo- The Wolf
6) Jeremiah Jae and Oliver the 2nd- Survival
7) Claudio Gabis- Esto Se Acoba Aqui
8) Jean Pierre Massiera- La Turbie Perhanienne
9) Eero Koivistoinen Music Society- Hot C
10) John Cale- Hello There
11) The Inner Space- Kamerasong
12) Juana Molina- Sin Guia No
13) Flying Lotus- Arkestry
14) Josephine Foster- Shay Shay
15) Eddie Gale- The Rain
16) Embryo- End of Soul
17) The Three Suns- Bidin' My Time
18) Pete Drake and His Talking Steel Guitar- My Abilene
19) Prodigal Suns- Little Girl from Puerto Rico
20) Lena Hughes- Spanish Fandango

Until next time, I hope you hear some new tunes here that bring a smile to your face.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

I Hear a New World Vol.21

The latest edition of I Hear a New World is available to listen to here, and to listen\download at http://ihearanewworld.podomatic.com/.

It's been a long time since I posted a new podcast on here, but this one has been in the works for awhile. This episode was compiled a few months ago, and it was recorded through my computer since my turntable is not currently hooked up to my stereo due to a change in my entertainment center setup. I was inspired to create this mix one evening when I was just listening to random tunes while surfing the web. As I went from folder to folder on my computer, I began to see the podcast take shape right before my eyes. In fact, you could even imagine listening to this one without the song identification between the songs.

As far as content, you can expect a heady mix of jazz, hip-hop, soul, shoegaze and international sounds. In any event, I hope that you find something here amongst this batch of tunes that makes your ears smile!

I Hear a New World Vol.21

1) Black Truth Rhythm Band- Ifetayo
2) Lee Moses- Time and Place
3) The Bar Kays- Smilin' Stylin and Profilin'
4) Joey Bada$$- Hillary Swank
5) Dizzy Gillespie- Matrix
6) King Tubby- Chapter of Money
7) Choo Ja Kim- Nobody Knows What's On My Mind
8) La Luz- Call Me in the Day
9) Hailu Mergia- Shemonmuanaye
10) Parquet Courts- You've Got Me Wonderin' Now
11) White Poppy- Wear Me Away
12) Grouper- Cloud in Places

Until next time...