Despite its appearance on more than one best of 2014 list, you could be forgiven for thinking Jenny Lewis' new album, The Voyager, came straight out of the 1970s; just take one listen to "She's Not Me" and you'll be breaking out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes and searching for the nearest disco.
American Kid is the 7th solo album of singer-songwriter Patty Griffin, and her first since 2007 that contains all original material. She is strongly supported on the album by talented musicians Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and Robert Plant, of Led Zeppelin fame. But to me, the album is all about Patty – her vocals and her brilliant song writing. The first and last songs on the album were inspired by her father and his impending death in 2009.
Let the hunt for the summer jams begin! From the first bubbly synth line, it's obvious that Classixx is all about fun. Which is a good thing as some dance music can take itself way to seriously and lose the whole point. Hanging Gardens is chock full of head-nodding, car-dancing, sun-bathing cuts that plays as the perfect summer soundtrack. Breezy, atmospheric and just the right bit of glitch are the perfect cocktail for a lazy day by the pool or just-loud enough for a dance party (usually right before or after things get out of control).
Of the six and a half albums released since the resurrection of Guided By Voices in 2011, The Bears for Lunch is arguably the strongest (with 2014’s Cool Planet a close second). There is an energy and playfulness in a lot of these tunes that's lacking in the other albums. "Dome Rust" and "Finger Gang" are prime examples of the kind of oddball hookiness Robert Pollard, GBV’s lead songwriter, has mastered for decades. “Amorphous Surprise” continues in this giddy, surrealist vein.
I don’t know much about Mikal Cronin. He has two albums out under his name, MCII and a self-titled debut that only hinted at the accomplishments found on here. He is obviously an acolyte of the kind of very melodic power pop music that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Does he reveal too much about himself in his music? Is it that he’d rather let his songs speak for themselves than have to provide a press-ready narrative? Who knows?
If you haven’t yet heard of Parker Millsap, and are a fan of folk music, I'll bet that in the near future you will. I have pretty much been listening nonstop to this 21 year olds debut album, titled Parker Millsap.
One part jazz, one part hip-hop, one part space jam, one part funk of the earth, Cinematic Orchestra’s Every Day is (at the very serious and dangerous risk of hyperbole and cliché) truly an album that defies convention and classification. For musicians, there are moments sublime and surreal harkening back to the funk/jazz cocktails of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter featuring the superb vocals of Fontella Bass (particularly on the opening track, “All That You Give”).
I like to be challenged occasionally, but definitely not all of the time. The music I choose to enjoy (and by extension, most entertainment) carries an air of familiarity and comfortable context. Very rarely will I actively seek out the latest and greatest in a genre or medium that I’m not familiar with. And yet I’m always looking for really good night music for driving. It just seems to create that perfect soundtrack for the darkened interior of a car, lit only by little dots and dashes.