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