"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Elvis Costello
OK, this is it, the official M205 best-of-the-year so far list. Why in August, you ask? Well, halfway is just so overdone, and I try to never follow the crowd, even if it takes me off the rails. And speaking of off the rails, this list is literally all over the place (hence the theme, get it?). Compiled with utter subjectivity and based solely on what has made a connection for me in some way or another (I'll explain a little after each), here is The List:
- Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins Chuck Prophet - Mark Deming at Allmusic calls this "sideways roots rock", and I can't think of a better definition. Prophet deserves more notoriety as a singer/songwriter and this album shows why.
- Heartworms The Shins - My Morning Jacket may be America's best indie band, but since they didn't release an album this year... Heartworms is practically perfect indie/pop for a 41 minute ear-fest.
- Live From the Fox Oakland Tedeschi Trucks Band - Many feel (me included) that this ensemble is currently the premier band to see live, whether blues, rock or otherwise. Tight rhythm, blazing guitar, and those Tedeschi vocals that recall Bonnie Raitt, with just a little Janis thrown in for good measure. Chills.
- London Southern Jim Lauderdale - Americana pioneer Lauderdale backed up by Nick Lowe's band, recalling Lowe's own 2007 release At My Age, with a little more grit and earth to dig into. Very satisfying.
- Mozart In Havana Simone Dinnerstein - Not being a real classical music aficionado, I like what I like, and I like Simone Dinnerstein. She always has a fresh, sensitive take on a composition, and this time is no different, as the pianist collaborates with the excellent Havana Lyceum Orchestra.
- Live in Paris Sleater-Kinney - For something completely different, how about some Riot Grrrl. The re-formed (not reformed) S-K releases a live album with songs spanning their career that may be, and this is probably heresy, the best thing they've ever done. That's not taking away anything from their past albums, but here they're just so...all in. The Tucker wail, Janet's power drummer shots, Brownstein's punk licks, all distilled right down to their essence.
- American Epic: The Sessions - In support of the Robert Redford/Jack White/T-Bone Burnett PBS documentary, modern musicians record period music using the only 1920's style recording device in existence. How could it not make this list?
- Something Else Cranberries - Yes, it's just acoustic renditions of songs previously recorded, yes it's been done, and yes, it's fantastic. At first you miss the jangly guitars, but then you notice the string quartet. But the lack of electronics mostly allows for the uniquely powerful voice of Delores O'Riordan to take center stage, and the songs you've heard before become all the more involving for it.
- Prisoner Ryan Adams - Adams and producer Don Was turn what could have been a wallowy breakup album into more of a musical healing process, with lyrics that hint at pain and loss but melodies that are more of a balm for emotional wounds.
- Windy City Alison Krauss - You never know what section of the musical ballpark Krauss is aiming for when she releases a new album, just that it's usually going to be at least a triple, and this one is no exception . She's mining the slick country of the 50's and 60's Nashville scene, and boy, does she nail it. Patsy Cline would be impressed.
What do you like so far this year? Use the comments section to list your favs.
Eric Molinsky selects and purchases music for JCLS. He considers himself a musician, since he once sold a guitar because he needed the money.