Albums Of The Month
1. JULIA HOLTER – HAVE YOU IN MY WILDERNESS
Have You In My Wilderness moves from French impressionist classical music and 17th-century madrigals to Talk Talk’s jazz-infused post-rock, from the avant music-drama of Robert Ashley and Meredith Monk, to the pop song writing that evolved in the hills of her Los Angeles hometown in the 1970s. But though these names remain on the tip of your tongue as you listen to her music, none of them describe Holter; they are only points on a broader and more inscrutable map. Her latest album, Have You In My Wilderness, is by some measure her sunniest and most accessible but this being Holter, our glimpses into each story in the songs are brief and foggy with more questions asked than answers given in her often-unrhymed prose poems. Have You… is tied together by music so airy it feels in danger of floating right past you. Despite the heavy cloak of reverb, the record has the clear sound of a small rock band playing the studio, highlighting the inventive but uninvasive upright bass and percussion of Devin Hoff, Corey Fogel and Kenny Gilmore. The haze is also dialled back on Holter’s vocals, making them crystal clear at crucial moments. But what ultimately makes Have You in My Wilderness transcendent – and unique in Holter’s catalogue – is its intimacy. It might be more accurate to say that it’s her most approachable: this time, her brilliance demands a lot from her listeners, but also meets them more than halfway.
2. KURT VILE – B’LIEVE I’M GOIN DOWN…
The essential quality of his music on this record is no different to his previous two albums but slight tweaks like the added banjo picking draws out a bit of folkiness, and piano shifts things slightly from capital-R Rock to singer-songwriter territory. Vile now plays “rock” in the most ’70s sense of the word—album oriented, guitar solo-friendly, very much about long-haired dudes sitting in a room playing instruments. His vocal twang makes his music feel more grounded and conversational, and there’s also a bit of a “Hey, it’s me again” quality the first time you hear it on a new album, an aural watermark that never leaves you any doubt that you are listening to a Kurt Vile record. B’lieve I’m Goin Down… is an impeccably arranged album beneath its soothing, sleepy surface, with every element assisting in an illusion of deep, shimmering, and alluring melancholy.
3. THE SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA – RESISTANCE
On Resistance, Pierre Chrétien’s ensemble uses Afro-beat as its foundation, yet doesn’t get bogged down in overly reverential Fela worship. As is typical, liberation politics makes up the lyrical content; consciousness raising is easier when the message is woven into infectious music that enters the brain and backbone through blasting speakers and makes your feet move. Intricately arranged horns usually ride on top of the mix, while spiky organ, multiple layers of varied percussion instruments, driving bass, and tight guitar lines flesh it out. This foundation gives the vocalists ample room to explore, either in chorus fashion or solo. The brevity of its tunes is remarkable — the longest cut is just a shade over five minutes, thus maximizing the dance potential. With every album, Souljazz Orchestra bring provocative surprise and musical delight. Resistance is no exception; it’s chock-full of vitality and adventure.
4.DUNGEN – ALLAS SAK
After a break of five years, the album finds them stretching their sound in new, more measured and arranged ways. Loads of piano (both acoustic and electric), many mellifluous flute solos, and Mellotron, all coat the songs in a soft-focus haze. Even the more rocked-out songs have a more laid-back, almost narcoleptic feel. Allas Sak is another step in the right direction for Dungen, one that shows them continuing to grow and seek out new ways to deliver their brand of psychedelia. They’ve kept the spirit of their early, free-flowing freak-out days, while continuing to apply more structure and care to their arrangements. It’s a best-of-both-worlds situation that should make fans of their early work happy and appeal to people who may be discovering them for the first time.
5. PHIL COOK – SOUTHLAND MISSION
Whether simple banjo fare, outlaw stompers, or reeling strut, each one of Cook’s modes is an easy and infectious exertion. And like any good missionary, Cook’s fervour is infectious. Although Southland Mission is studiously steeped in tradition, it wears it lightly. Recorded in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the warmth of the Durham, N.C. community behind the record beams through as its own kind of congregation. Southland handles doubt with the possibility of redemption, reinforced by the record’s persistent, joyous uplift. Southland Mission lights up tradition with rare and overt joy and palpable gratitude. It’s an open invitation from a man who’s found home. Say yes.
6. DARKSTAR – FOAM ISLAND
Reverting to their original duo line-up of Aiden Whalley and James Young, Whalley takes the reins here as the duo’s vocalist, but they retain their experimental pop sound, with perhaps a little bit more emphasis on beats than on their previous effort. Foam Island is a curious, enjoyable album that abundantly showcases Darkstar’s tendencies for experimentation as well as pop song writing.
7. RICHARD HAWLEY – HOLLOW MEADOWS
His remarkable voice – openly weathered at points here – has never sounded better than on this fine set of songs. A comforting return rather than anything revolutionary, it is nevertheless a welcome addition to his formidable catalogue.
8. THE DAVE RAWLINGS MACHINE – NASHVILLE OBSOLETE
While they made a point of recording on old-fashioned analog tape to get the requisite atmosphere, there’s nothing old-fashioned about Rawlings’ brilliantly idiosyncratic flights of guitar fancy. Nobody gets more emotion out of less volume than he does.
9. STUFF – S/T
Imagine just how in the soundtrack of Alice In Wonderland sounded if it was written by BadBadNotGood and Flying Lotus. And that same soundtrack was mixed by Kraftwerk and Boards of Canada…look no further.
10. LOW – ONES AND SIXES
Ones and Sixes is all at once beautiful, ugly, tense, warm, inviting and repellent. It’s an emotional and sonic juggling act where even the slightest bum-note would draw attention to itself. As always with Low, the beauty is all about the details.
11. MAGIC CASTLES – STARFLOWER
12. DAM FUNK – INVITE THE LIGHT
13. GUILTY SIMPSON – DETROIT’S SON
14. BLANK REALM – ILLEGALS IN HEAVEN
15. DISCLOSURE – CARACAL
16. BOB MOSES – DAYS GONE BY
17. THE BLACK TAMBOURINES – FREEDOM
18. KING MIDAS SOUND/FENNESZ – EDITION 1
19. BEIRUT – NO NO NO
20. THE ARCS – YOURS, DREAMILY
FULL LIST OF OUR TOP 100 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2014 CLICK HERE. ALSO CHECK OUT UNDER AOTY2014 FOR OUR TOP 20 REISSUES, COMPILATION AND STAFF LISTS.
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