Favorite albums of 2014

Below are the twenty albums released in 2014 that grabbed my attention and kept it. Some of them will sooth the soul, and some will rustle your jimmies. Scroll down for the countdown (and click the art to hear a track off the album).


20. James Vincent McMorrow
Post Tropical

[It steals a lot of its tricks from the Justin Vernon playbook, but damn if it isn't beautiful.]

19. Logic
Under Pressure

[This one steals a lot as well -- too much, really -- from Kendrick's GKMC and ATCQ's Midnight Maraders. But I can't think of two better albums to imitate. Plus he imitates them well and the result is very enjoyable.]

18. Future Islands

[These guys have been slowly growing on me over the past several years. Like many others I caught their Letterman performance earlier this year and finally saw the man behind that growl. His charisma fully won me over that day.]

17. Simone Felice

[The latest from the man who left his brothers while they continue doing their thing as The Felice Brothers. Simone has gone on to create some amazing roots music of his own and Strangers is his best yet.]

16. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Singer's Grave A Sea of Tongues

[Will Oldham is tough to keep up with. If you look away for a couple of months, you might miss an album release or two. But he always rewards his followers -- and this new one is no different. The songs on Singer's Grave are mostly culled from his 2011 release Wolfroy Goes to Town and reworked with the best Nashville has to offer.]

15. Caribou
Our Love

[Dan Snaith won me over 11 years ago as Manitoba with his album Up in Flames. For some reason, I made the mistake of completely sleeping on his output under the moniker Caribou, though. No longer! This is electronic music made for humans. Daft Punk, take notice.]

14. Angel Olsen
Burn Your Fire For No Witness

[Will Oldham's prolific output doesn't come without the help of a band of merry men and women. Angel Olsen has been involved in his work and toured with his band, but now she has stepped out on her own. Her last effort was a beginning, but this is a big leap forward as her first release under Jagjaguwar. The directions that she chooses to take her melodies, as well as her decision to plug in and turn the amp up have put her on the list of the many female songwriters who killed it this year.]

13. Beck
Morning Phase

[When the swelling strings of "Cycle" faded into the acoustic strumming of "Morning" on my first listen, my heart leaped. But when the bass slid in and the drums hit a few seconds later, I felt my whole body floating. I was in high school again, hearing the opening of Sea Change. The territory may be well tread, but that is fine by me.]

12. Wye Oak

[Wye Oak win this year's out-of-left-field award. I did NOT expect this kind of music from these two. Jenn Wasner was a guitar-slinging badass on the previous album. To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed when I heard the first notes of Shriek, but my disappointment quickly faded into head-bobbing enjoyment. It seems like the synth-heavy music has afforded Wasner more space to play with melody and she kills it. I told you the ladies killed it this year.]

11. Grouper

[Liz Harris has put me to sleep many many times over the past 6 years. Let me be clear, that is a good thing. The sleep did not come from boredom, but from the intense relaxation her music brings. Her hazy, reverb-heavy music comes in a slightly different package this year. She traveled to Portugal to be an artist in residence and brought her 4-track recorder along with her. Most of the album is just her and the piano, synching her vocal melody to that of the piano and lulling us into her dream world. And killing it.]

10. Isaiah Rashad
Cilvia Demo

[Top Dawg Entertainment have firmly established themselves as the best hip hop production facility around. Their newest signee, Isaiah Rashad, hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee. His debut EP shows that he can keep up with the best: his label-mates Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock (who are featured on the album version of this track). I can't wait for a collaboration with Kendrick. It also shows that he can give us a cohesive collection of tracks longer than most LPs.]

9. Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

[Here's another prolific songwriter who is even harder to keep up with than Will Oldham. Many critics like to say that Ryan needs an editor. Well, they can't complain with this one. All of these tracks are keepers. To be clear, though, I love all the toss-aways that he's given us over the years. It is his unfiltered creations that make him my absolute favorite artist. Here, though, he is efficient and succinct. He's mostly shed the singer-songwriter feel of Ashes & Fire for a full-band approach yielding songs that feel like they've been around for years.]

8. Swans
To Be Kind

[This is a monster of an album. It is a behemoth. It is a monolith. It is intimidating and very hard to break. Fortunately, I had to write a research paper about the propaganda films of the Third Reich for a class this semester, so I had about 9 straight hours to absorb this thing while I researched and wrote. The pairing worked oddly well. Michael Gira wants to be an artist -- that is his main concern. Well, he's created some fine art again with To Be Kind.]

7. Jennifer Castle
Pink City

[I honestly don't know much of anything about this album other than how beautiful it is. I think the mystery adds to the allure a little bit, but these tracks stand on their own and don't need a story to prop them up. It sounds straight out of the late 60s/early 70s folk-rock scene, but with a modern twist. Another lady killed it -- that's all I really know.  ---Edit: Owen Pallett composed the string arrangements. I should have known.... that is the "modern twist" I'm hearing.]

6. Sam Amidon

[Sam Amidon has been quietly creating some of my favorite music for the past 7 years. He is a Vermont-native who grew up with musician parents who steeped him in the traditions of Appalachian music. Most of his own output has been beautifully-inventive reworkings of some of those traditions. He has since moved to London and married the English singer-songwriter Beth Orton, but he has not left behind his Appalachian palette.]

5. St. Vincent
St. Vincent

[Annie Clark is the total package. I've always admired her skills as an artist and as a guitar player, but I had never really immersed myself in her music until this album. I will definitely be going back through her other 3 now that I know what a treasure she is.]

4. Flying Lotus
You're Dead!

[Progressive jazz/hip hop/electronica at it's very finest. If you haven't heard something to tickle your fancy yet, just wait a few seconds and Steven Ellison will throw something else at you. I like to think this is the music that Miles Davis would be making if he were still with us.]

3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

[This hip hop effort stood miles above the rest for me this year. Madlib delivers maybe the best beats of his career. That's right, it maaaaybe better than Madvilliany. I'm not sure about that, but I do know that Piñata hits hard. The pairing of Madlib with MC Freddie Gibbs works very well, too. Gibb's technique as a rapper may not match the best of his peers, but it works with the music. Those beats need room to breathe and soak in. This album was on repeat for the better part of the summer.]

2. Sharon Van Etten
Are We There

[I don't mean to be sexist by pointing out the gender of all these ladies, it's just that I grew up with a majority of dudes in my CD case and iPod. And it's not like it's surprising for a lady to put out a killer record or anything, but the sheer amount of high-quality music put out by women this year is something I noticed. And of all the ladies, Sharon Van Etten killed it the most. This album is nearly flawless -- the cover puts out the perfect vibe you need to have going in. I can't wait for warmer weather so I can join her with my windows down as I blast Are We There all day.]

1. The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream

[And finally, the one album I could not get enough of this year. It has not left heavy rotation status since I bought it back in March. Adam Granduciel has created a masterpiece. I've read all the criticisms of it's length or of it's boring stretches, and I've listened to an old man call it beer commercial rock, but I still love it to pieces. 2014 was the year of Lost in the Dream for me. And it was a good year.]


underneath the weeping willow: a mix for sleep

I made this for a friend who was having trouble sleeping. I love having music play while I sleep. And more importantly, before I fall asleep. The right songs put my mind at rest so my body can do the same. 

Sleep tight, y'all.



To celebrate the first day of fall, here is one of my favorite documentaries. Danny Clinch followed Ryan Adams around during the year 2005, when he put out three records. This focuses on the making of Jacksonville City Nights. It is short and sweet.

September Short Film | Ryan Adams & The Cardinals from Mitchaveli on Vimeo.


Fuel for Fire: an autum mix for 2014

In summer -- 
". . . the sun rises out of the morning's haze with authority and potency, and standing on your top step at seven in the morning . . . you know that the dew will be melted off the grass by eight and that the dust on the back roads will hang depthless and still in the air for five minutes after a car's passage; and that by one in the afternoon it will be up to ninety-five . . . and the sweat will roll off your arms like oil and stick your shirt to your back in a widening patch . . . 
But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you."
 -Stephen King
For me, this playlist is like an old friend settling in and telling stories -- even the songs that are new to me. It takes out it's pipe and cuts the cold air with its wisps of warm smoke. It is the rhythmic sound of dead leaves crunching under an old rocking chair. And if you listen closely, it is the syncopation of a fluttering heartbeat that is falling in love -- with the quiet crisp air, and with somebody.

Part 1 (Download Here)
1. We Put A Pearl In The Ground / St. Vincent
2. Mr. Met / Lambchop
3. Raven's Song / Aaron Embry
4. Sun Is King / Laura Veirs
5. I'd Rather Die / Nicolai Dunger
6. Worried Mind / Megafaun
7. Seaweed / Fruit Bats
8. Silver Dagger / Fleet Foxes
9. Summer On The Westhill / Kings Of Convenience
10. City Wrecker / Moonface
11. Open / Rhye
12. Scotty / Pure Bathing Culture
13. Song For Zula / Phosphorescent
14. Another Man's Done Gone / Wilco

Part 2 (Download Here)
1. Death Final / Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
2. Fuel For Fire / M. Ward
3. Mama, You Been On My Mind / Jeff Buckley
4. Lullaby / Loudon Wainwright III
5. I Wish I Was The Moon / Neko Case
6. Window / Damien Jurado
7. By The Mark / Gillian Welch
8. Walilamdzi / Devendra Banhart
9. Gymnopédie No. 1 / Erik Satie
10. Flume / Peter Gabriel
11. Have You Forgotten / Red House Painters
12. Lost In The Dream / The War On Drugs
13. My Old Friend / Sam Amidon
14. Sabertooth Tiger / Breathe Owl Breathe
15. Over & Done / The Everybodyfields


Backpack Rap Collection

From Urban Dictionary: "Bsically, a backpacker is a cat that spends most of his/her time traveling through public transit. Theyre a huge fan of music but mostly on a lyrically tip because they have a greater grasp and focus on lyrics that kills time while their traveling on the bus, subway, etc. They dont have the money to be rolling in luxury cars, etc. So when you come across a backpacker, theyre usually more of a lyrical cat because all they have is a walkman and a grip of CD's in their backpacks. With a walkman, youre usually more focused on words rathers than beats and hooks. Thats why most backpackers are considered more into the underground hiphop scene where artist's are more about lyrics. You usually find backpackers in inner cities because public transit is cheap, and to get from point A to point B isnt that far of a route."

Sure, okay. Here's a bunch of that kind of music.....

Part 1 (Download Here)
1. Be / Common
2. Let's Ride / Q-Tip
3. High Fidelity / Jurassic 5
4. Blazing Arrow / Blackalicious
5. Chain Smoker / Chance the Rapper
6. Verses From the Abstract / A Tribe Called Quest
7. Eye Know / De La Soul
8. Made in America (SD50 B-Boy Mix) / Del Tha Funky Homosapien
9. Jungle / KA
10. Are you... Can you... Were you? (Felt) / Shabazz Palaces
11. Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst / Kendrick Lamar
12. I Used To Love H.E.R. / Common
13. You Got Me (Feat. Erykah Badu) / The Roots
14. Final Hour / Lauryn Hill
15. Two Can Win / J Dilla
16. Chum / Earl Sweatshirt
17. Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park) / Nas
18. Mighty Deadly (Siik Forces of Nature Remix) / Ghostface Killah
19. B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) / Genius/GZA
20. Tidal Tendencies / Hawk House

Part 2 (Download Here)
1. Thoughts & Wishes (DJ Jedi Edit) / Hamilton Bohannon
2. For Corners / Digable Planets
3. Astronomy (8th Light) / Black Star
4. Love Language / Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek)
5. His Pain II (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) / BJ the Chicago Kid
6. Glory (Feat. Blue Ivy Carter) / Jay Z
7. Make My (Feat. Big K.R.I.T. & Dice Raw) / The Roots
8. Eternal Sunshine / Jay Electronica
9. Jesus Walks / Kanye West
10. C.R.E.A.M. / Wu-Tang Clan
11. Give Up The Goods (Just Step) (Feat. Big Noyd) / Mobb Deep
12. Incarcerated Scarfaces / Raekwon
13. Daylight / Aesop Rock
14. ALL CAPS / Madvillian
15. Waves / Joey Bada$$
16. 3030 / Deltron 3030
17. Electric Relaxation / A Tribe Called Quest
18. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised / Gil Scott-Heron
19. The 6th Sense / Common