As the year nears closer and closer to the inevitable best-of lists, I began to take stock of my favorite music of 2014 and found that there was very little of it. There are maybe six songs on my Spotify playlist I created months ago. I listen to music all day, but old Emmylou Harris and Sleater-Kinney records are not really going to make the cut for this year.
So I went through reviews, blogs, and playlists to find new music that excites me. I actually found some! However, even though the process was enjoyable, it was way more work that I thought it would be. I maintained handwritten lists, a private Spotify playlist of full albums I need to go through, favorited blog posts. Also, so much of what I heard, I hated.
One morning, I was slugging through a list and crossing off most of the bands when I heard this Mitski song:
I stopped working, smiled widely and rocked back and forth at my desk and then played it again immediately. It made listening to all those guitar rock bands with whispered vocals totally worth it. Bury Me at Makeout Creek has my favorite LP title of the year (a Simpsons reference), and is full of saddish folk jams turned kind of pop. This is not the first time something I discover will remind me of Angel Olsen.
While reading the Mitski review on Pitchfork, I saw a reference to Joyce Manor, who I only knew as that band that came out against stagediving. I have ignored them for several months, figuring they were terrible pop-punk that would make me feel old. “BORING, I listened to stuff like this in 1998!” But their songs are full of great melodies and pop sensibilities that are helping me to forget my obsession with FOUR.
What drew me to Weyes Blood originally was the striking cover art:
Weyes Blood is a combination of the folk music of the 60s and 70s I love (think Baez and Mitchell) with some ambient goodness thrown in (Grouper, Tim Hecker). I didn’t think I’d hear a record that depresses me more than Angel Olsen, but I’ve totally found one. There are some similar qualities in their voices, particularly in their ability to go into their lower registers and sound gutteral and sad. Lovely and moving and full of literary goodness.
I saw Helen Chambers open up for Laura Stevenson a few weeks ago (solo acoustic, her band couldn’t make it), and I enjoyed her quiet British folk and her lovely voice. Penny Arcade can be purchased here.
The Nots, who are on garage-rock stalwart Goner Records, have this thing about them that makes me think I have posted about them before.
Originally a project for Natalie Hoffman of Ex-Cult (another Goner band I recommend) and Charlotte Watson (The Manatees, next on my list to check out), this all girl punk band absolutely kill it with a dark, synthy, yet still catchy, sound.
Until I listened to her, all I knew about Natalie Prass is that she’s from Nashville and her music was being released on Spacebomb, a locally based label that is home to Matthew E. White.
I can see this being the soundtrack for winter dinner parties and (if it’s me) solo wine-drinking parties, too. Someone compared her to Eleanor Friedberger, and I like that, but the strings and horns make this record so distinctive, and more R&B/60s pop than anything Eleanor has done. The LP is out next year, but she does have a single available now. Full disclosure: many people I know played on this record, but I would love it regardless.
This is not coming out until March, but the teaser clip from Will Butler’s (Arcade Fire) new LP on Merge made me VERY curious: