2014: My Year In Music


Every year there is usually somebody out there that feels like they are bringing something new to the table and Adult Jazz was that “somebody” for me in 2014. It is a slow, steady, experimental affair… but it doesn’t feel like they are creating experimental music just for the sake of “challenging the listener”. They softly lulled me into submission. Perhaps the most “challenging” part of listening to one of their tracks is to find a part that you absolutely love, only to realize that it may not come around again. Many of their songs feel like six songs in one. This makes for a very interesting and unexpected journey through a world that gist is

/// tUnE-yArDs - NIKKI NACK 
Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner know how to have fun with music. They have created a wild and diverse playground of an album called Nikki Nack. Seeing them perform live for a second time reaffirmed my belief that Garbus is an artist in the truest sense of the word who oozes instrumental capabilities while wielding an elastic voice that is unparalleled. Fellow concert attendee Rocky Thomas described the performance appropriately when saying, “It was like a bunch of little girls got together and planned a rock show.” I would add, “Little girls who love watching Pee Wee’s Playhouse!”. Stir all this in with lyrical content that is powerful, thought- provoking, and shared through an incredibly introspective lens on being a woman in 2014, then you realize what a gift tUnE-yArDs is.          

Another dizzying audio journey was unleashed from the brain of Steven Ellison as a meditated on the afterlife. This trippy, jazz-soaked album includes an army of guest artists that take Fly-Lo into new territory. Seeing him live at The Neptune Theatre in Seattle gave the album even more depth for me. It was a full-on assault on the senses with state of the art 3D visuals and bass that was used like a weapon of mass destruction. The foundation shook beneath us as our eyeballs swam through otherworldly portals. It was a perfect complement to the concepts behind the album. You’re Dead! is a trip man… a total trip.  

I have always liked Chad Vangaalen, but this album spoke to me on a level that no previous effort has. Shrink Dust is a collection of songs that floated around in my head like an apparition for days. Vangaalen is literally a one-man-band that also crosses over into the visual arts. He creates his own album artwork, animated music videos, and other amazing projects for the eyes. It is easy for me to embrace his uncompromising worlds of weirdness. Listening to a diverse track like Frozen Paradise immediately followed by the lazy burn of Lila makes me want to lay down and melt into the floorboards. Chad Vangaalen is a true talent that is often overlooked.  

The return of Real Estate was a great way to kick off 2014 for me. It made me really homesick for Boise, sending me into daydreams of riding my bike among the well worn houses of the North End. Atlas grew closer to my heart as spring melted away the harshness of the winter months. I’m not sure that I would love Real Estate without the warm and delicately intricate guitar licks of Matt Mondanile; he is a master at what he does. It doesn’t feel like Real Estate is necessarily doing anything new with their 3rd release, but they sure are feeling like an old friend.  

This album became my soundtrack to Capitol Forest in 2014. Much like summertime in Capitol Forest, it is thick and dark with temperate beams of sunlight peaking through the treetops. Like moss it crawls over decaying wood and ancient stone supping on the morning mist. There is something mystical about the whole encounter. 
This is rock’n roll, period. They do it every time and they did it again. Every couple of years I think to myself, “Do I really need another Spoon record?”. Then after a few listens of their latest effort I think, “Yes, Yes I do!”. Spoon has the unique ability to take the fundamentals of rock’n roll, work with them in a relatively minimal format, and create something very contemporary while simultaneously feeling timeless. They is one of my favorite rock outfits of all time.          

When it comes to electronica music, Grant Eadie knows how to hit most of my sweet spots. The dream-inducing sounds of Brush pulled me in pretty quick. Then by the time I reached it’s amazing centerpiece Island I was fully invested in the ride. It’s rickety beats and gentle guitar strums slowly dive into deep underwater based drops eventually building into a finale that sores on the wings of a violin above the clouds. I look forward to seeing where this young artist’s burgeoning soundscapes will take us next.       

Fatima’s anti-diva approach to Soul/R&B is refreshing. At times, this album takes me clear back to my middle school days, but then, production on tracks like Circle, Ridin’Round (Sky High), and Talk, put it squarely back in the present. It certainly has its share of downcast moments... Yet, the album over-all is filled with positive vibes that put a bounce in my step when needed. If you have any interest in Neo-Soul, then I would highly recommend giving Yellow Memories a spin.           

This was my summer jam. It was the perfect compliment to riding along the Puget Sound, the sunlight reflecting off the water, salt air against the face, seagulls overhead… ahh summertime. Almost every song on the album has a well-crafted solo that is in just the right spot at just the right length. This album doesn’t bring many new things to the table, but it is just a great collection of little woozy pop gems. It was just what I needed this summer. It also has some of my favorite album artwork of the year with most of the credit going to visual artist, Vicki Ling.

::: || HONORABLE MENTIONS || :::     
Sylvan Esso
My favorite Pop album of the year that feels like a contemporaty cousin to The Postal Service.
Tycho - Awake
Another solid record from this ever-emerging ambient & electronica artist.
Badbadnotgood - III
Perhaps the first jazz album that I’ve fully embraced.
Foxes in Fiction - Ontario Gothic
This was my antidote for winding-down this year.
Oliver Wilde - Red Tide Opal In The Loose End Womb
This is another excellent record from a very underrated artist in my opinion.

::: || SOME OF MY FAVORITE SONGS OF 2014 || ::: 
St. Vincent - Digital Witness
Slasher Flicks - Little Fang
Lord Raja - Van Go (feat. Jeremiah Jae)
Shabazz Palaces - Colluding Oligarchs
Hundred Waters - Murmurs
tUnE-yArDs - Real Thing
Mimicking Birds - Bloodlines
Real Estate - Talking Backwards
Alex G - Harvey
Conor Oberst - You Are Your Mother’s Child


Seattle Art Show at Portage Bay Goods

The Art of Ben Wilson  |  Sept 5th - Oct 1st, 2014
Portage Bay Goods
621 North 35th Street  |  Seattle, WA 98103
Opening Reception: Friday Sept. 5th, 2014, 6-9pm
Gallery/Shop Hours: Daily 10am-7pm 

I’m grateful to be the featured artist at Portage Bay Goods this September, located in Seattle’s legendary Fremont neighborhood. The opening reception will be part of the Fremont Art Walk this coming “First Friday” evening Sept 5th, 6-9pm. I will have a nice mix of paintings, sculpture, art prints, and concert posters available through the end of the month. I’d like to thank La Ru, Shalene and everybody at Portage Bay Goods for welcoming me into the neighborhood. Check out more details at portagebaygoods.com and fremontfirstfriday.com.

Portage Bay Goods  |  Exterior
Portage Bay Goods  |  Entrance
Portage Bay Goods  |  Interior
Portage Bay Goods  |  Window Display


2013: My Year In Music


Let’s just get this out of the way first. I’ll confess that Youth Lagoon is a Boise-based outfit, so I’m sure there is some bias involved in my love for this album. Trevor Powers easily avoided any signs of a “sophomore slump” with Wondrous Bughouse. His previous album, The Year of Hibernation, was a quiet, inward album about the struggles of youth and transitioning to adulthood. Then, listeners are hit with a wide open, psychedelic funhouse in this 2013 creation. It was one of the most rewarding listens of the year for me. Though the lyrics still appear deeply personal, they speak to broader terms of the human experience. The occasional waltz and haunted merry-go-round tune keeps things really interesting on this beautifully strange trip.      

An intergalactic voyage in remembrance of a friend who died too young might be a fair summary of the funky journey that is Apocalypse. Thundercat is one of those rare felines that can jam on a mind-bending level without creating music that is only appreciated by the technically inclined. This cat brings jazz, R&B, soul, pop, rhythm & blues, disco, dubstep, etc… and then hits puree on the interstellar blender. It is a pseudo-spiritual experience that I had on repeat for much of 2013.    


Stephen Wilkinson has brought another beautifully eclectic mix to the table. He jumps from heavily sampled dubstep, to quietly plucked folk ballads, to experimental electronica, to sunrise ambience and that’s just the first half of the album. Despite his impressive genre hopping, it is still distinctly Bibio and I love every minute of it. You Won’t Remember still gives me woozy chills. It makes me cry as I remember listening to it while riding my bike on a summer breeze through Boise’s historic North End.    

This album was a bit of an anti-depressant for me this year. Not that it is a cheery, pick-me-up of an album, quite the opposite. It is more like finding a friend to wallow in the sadness with. It put my head in a bit of a groggy haze filled with comforting fuzz and glitch. At the base layer it is a traditional singer-songwriter/folk album. However, it is so steeped in layers of samples, synths, beeps, bloops, and ticks that it removes itself from a simple exercise in genre. Almost every track on the record has sonic surprises that come in the form of electronic embellishments. I still don’t know if this is a “real” genre, but Oliver Wilde crafts exceptional folktronica.

It is rare for me to find something so dark, bleak, and off-kilter to be incredibly inviting. Don’t get me wrong, These New Puritans are not creating contemporary Scott Walker-style music. It has melodies and sounds that create a fog of beauty that is a bit more accessible than Mr. Walker. However, it is still an eerie, acquired taste. Their use of more symphonic instruments and brooding atmosphere make a curious match to quiet vocals seemingly sung on a last breath. Field of Reeds is not a nightmare, but you’ll probably want to sleep with the nightlight on.  

This album is summertime in a bottle. I’ve been pretty hit and miss with Ernest Greene’s previous 80’s-laden song craft. The introduction of more acoustic instrumentation and live drums brought a warm human touch that reeled me right into Paracosm. It is the sound of coasting with all windows down while summer winds fill the cabin of your vehicle. There is still the occasional journey into the soundtrack of the closing credits to Never Ending Story, but hey, that is still one of my favorite movies. 
/// KWES - ILP.
Experimental R&B, what a great idea. I don’t know if Kwes came up with it, but he sure knows how to execute it. It feels like Kwes is bringing something new to the table. It is not mind-blowing or revolutionary, it is a quiet, unusual sound that I couldn’t ignore in late 2013. Even the poetry of his lyrics feels experimental with it’s broad strokes of word association. The opening track Purplehands comes to mind, “Red and blue makes purple, crop circles bury the fruits of our love”.

Here is another group that pushed the looming “sophmore slump” to the side of the road. I feel Mount Kimbie refined, improved, and progressed their infectious sound on all fronts with this worthy second effort. They took the next natural step in bringing more vocals into the mix including some slack-jawed rhymes at the hands of Britain’s current wonder-kid King Krule. As all forms of electronica continue to be on the rise, it is groups like Mount Kimbie that keep things fresh for me among a sea of stale fish.    

This album felt like my personal soundtrack to the city of Olympia, WA which I now call home. Misty mountains filled with lakes, streams, and waterfalls; lantern walks in mossy, fern-covered woods; rain drops splashing on a bearded face; a domed political edifice glowing through the fog; this is what Antiphon has become to me. I had almost written Midlake off when I experienced a big disconnect with their previous effort, The Courage of Others. But the winds of change within the band and in my family’s life brought us back together again. A happy union under the gray skies of Olympia.      

This is dream-pop at it’s most REM inducing state. This record lulled me into a reverb soaked trance so soft and subtle that 50 minutes pass by without measure. There are other forces at work in this album that I can’t ignore. For example, the amazing art by Yoko Kuno throughout the packaging or a creation story that drew me in immediately. Visions of a little Japanese woman recording quietly in a small Tokyo apartment so as not to disturb the neighbors definitely peaked my interest. Butterfly Case is a audio dose best taken while lying down.

Local Natives - Hummingbird
Amazing production, atmosphere, and soaring falsettos made this album stand out from the crowd in 2013.

King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath The Moon
This kid’s got swagger to spare and I look forward to seeing how his sound develops in the many years he has ahead of him. 

James Blake - Overgrown
He continues to foster a sound that is quite unique in a world where this is becoming a herculean task.

Rogue Wave - Nightingale Floors
Another solid record by one of my longtime favorites. The killer packaging with art by Andrew Schoultz doesn't hurt either.  

Shigeto - No Better Time Than Now
I’ve always enjoyed Shigeto, but after seeing him create my favorite performance of the entire 2013 Treefort Music Festival, he is on a new level for me. Much respect.
The Strokes - Comedown Machine

I feel like all media was encouraging me to NOT like this album, but I did, a lot.

::: || BEST LIVE PERFORMANCE OF 2013 || :::
James Blake at the Showbox (Sodo) - Seattle, WA
If there was Museum of Modern Music, then this performance would be the featured exhibition. 


Peoples Art Of Portland Show

The Art of Ben Wilson  |  July 20th - August 11th, 2013
Peoples Art Of Portland 
700 SW 5th (3rd Floor) Suite 4005  |  Portland, OR 97204
Opening Reception: Saturday July 20th, 2013, 5-9pm
Gallery Hours: Thurs-Sun 12-6pm 

I'm honored to be having a show in my home away from home, Portland Oregon! It features a big mix of art prints, posters, originals, and more. Around 60 art prints and posters will be framed and ready to hang. Though I am the "featured artist" there will also be 100 plus artists participating in a "Carnival" themed show in the gallery as well. It sounds like it will be another killer show at The People's Art of Portland! I'd like to give a big thanks to the gallery curators Jason Brown and Chris Haberman for bringing it all together. Feel free to Check out more info at the Facebook Event page.

Peoples Art Of Portland  |  Entrance  |  Photo By: David Burbach
Peoples Art Of Portland  |  Exterior 
Peoples Art Of Portland  |  Interior 


Commission + Creation Process + Animated Gif

Here is a commission piece I recently wrapped up for the Price family. It was inspired by time spent with their dog on the beautiful Rock Garden/Rock Island trails in the Boise Foothills. It is appropriately titled Rock Garden. Rock Island happens to be one of my favorite trails to mountain bike, so it really brought this piece home for me too. Thanks for a great project Price family!
I am asked about my painting process from time to time, so I thought I'd show a bit of the process via the animated gif below. I break down the process a little more in the images below the animated gif. The process for any given project is different, but I thought people might like to see one explained in more depth. 

Rock Garden | 8 Stage Process
Rock Garden | Concept Sketch
Rock Garden | Rough Sketch
Rock Garden | Value Sketch
Rock Garden | Initial Color Wash
Rock Garden | Low Lights
Rock Garden | Highlights & Richer Color
Rock Garden | Finishing Details/Final Product
Rock Garden | 24"x18" inches | Mixed Media on Panel | Price Family Commission


New Art Prints Available

I have 3 new art prints available in the on-line store at www.benwilsonart.com. The first two are inspired by people that are "meant to be" and the third one is a bit of an attempt in the humor category. I created the original art for all three of these prints years ago, so I thought I'd finally make some inexpensive prints available. The prints & associated details are below.
Like A Right Hand & A Left... We Were Meant To Be | 7"x9" inches | Limited Edition of 50 | Signed & Numbered | High Quality Giclee Print | 80lb Textured Paper | $20.00 + Shipping | www.benwilsonart.com  
Like A Left Foot & A Right... We Were Meant To Be | 7"x9" inches | Limited Edition of 50 | Signed & Numbered | High Quality Giclee Print | 80lb Textured Paper | $20.00 + Shipping | www.benwilsonart.com 
Richard Wears His New Suit & Tie To Work | 7"x9" inches | Limited Edition of 50 | Signed & Numbered | High Quality Giclee Print | 80lb Textured Paper | $20.00 + Shipping | www.benwilsonart.com 


The Future Of Idaho...?

I've recently been working with the Nieghborhood All-Stars & Compass Idaho to create conceptual illustrations of various Idaho neighborhoods circa 2040 AD! Compass Idaho is working hard to create a more sustainable future for Idaho by helping to develop neighborhoods that are more bike-friendly, walkable, mass transit accessible, environmentally conscious, self-sustaining, etc… It was an enjoyable change of pace to create these architectural-style concept images to help them in their efforts. It was also a pleasure because they are working towards ideals for our community that I really believe in. Whether it's more mass transit, bike lanes, community gardens, or green architecture… I hope to see many of these visions come to life in Idaho's near future. I'd like to thank Laura, Amy, Carl, and Toby for being such a great team for this important project. Look for these images and an entire book of detailed information to be officially published by Compass Idaho in 2014.
Concept Illustration | Downtown Urban Neighborhood | Compass Idaho
Concept Illustration | Downtown Rural Neighborhood | Compass Idaho
Concept Illustration | Core Neighborhood | Compass Idaho
Concept Illustration | Employment Center Neighborhood | Compass Idaho
Concept Illustration | Mixed-Use Neighborhood | Compass Idaho
Concept Illustration | Transit-Oriented Development Neighborhood | Compass Idaho
Concept Illustration | New Neighborhood | Compass Idaho