Here are a few records I enjoyed this year. Maybe you have/will enjoy them, as well.
Spread the Feeling (Pernice Brothers)
Sure, I enjoy those relatively recent New Mendicants and Scud Mountain Boys records and Joe Pernice’s twitter feed, but it’s been forever since the last Pernice Brothers record. As bad as it may sound, I had kinda resigned myself to the idea that there may not be another one. Spread the Feeling reminds me again why I love Pernice: quotable lyrics, Byrds guitars, a little New Order, and amazing bridges. (If you’re new to Pernice, I think he’s kind of like AC Newman, when, at his best, he combines disparate influences into something coherent and unbelievably catchy.) You know, he could have easily made a really long album to make up for lost time. But instead, he made a eleven-song album that I just want to keep flipping over and starting again.
Never Know (Author of the Accident)
I don’t really know much about Allison Chhorn, Australian artist who records under the name Author of the Accident. One day early this year, Never Know showed up in a search result for shoegaze on Bandcamp. I spent quite a bit of alone time with this record, without the help of a review or magazine article. But I think that lack of attention that Chhorn receives only adds to the mystique. There’s a dreamy, almost Velour 100 or early Map vibe at time that I enjoy. Arrangements are sparse, and the recording a little homespun. And because it’s only eight songs, Never Know doesn’t feel too long. Allison, if you’re reading this, please make more music. Thanks!
Undercurrents was a serial album, with Hammock posting a song on its Bandcamp page each month this year. (This approach kept me aware of the record all year, which doesn’t seem to happen with streaming. Nowadays, a month seems like a year and we quickly forget about new albums.) Each song on Undercurrents is nearly 20 minutes, making the entire album nearly four hours in length. The usual Hammock-y things are here: dreamy guitars, occasional cello, and delay on the drum machine. Look, there’s no way to really discuss an album of this magnitude, but it was certainly an audacious and respectable undertaking. While maybe not really necessary for most fans, it is a beautiful record and I love it.
Flamagra (Flying Lotus)
While I like Flamagra, it’s certainly not one of my favorite FlyLo albums. But when you have a kid who loves a record, you end up listening to it a lot.
Zeppelin Over China/Warp and Woof/Sweating the Plague (Guided by Voices)
A significant amount of digital ink is spilled in Guided by Voices Facebook groups about which lineup is the best, so I’m not really going to add anything significant to that conversation. But I can say that Bob Pollard has been on a tear with this new(-ish) lineup. Very few filler tracks this year, spread across three albums (one of which was a double album). I love all three of these records.
Bioluminescence (Teen Daze)
Jamison Isaak keeps doing his thing, mixing electronic and organic sounds. I feel like he might be getting better and better at realizing his vision with each release. Or at least it feels like he’s on a journey to somewhere who knows, but I’m along for the ride. Bioluminesence is a little fuzzy, a little new age-y, a little Tangerine Dream, and maybe little ambient house. And, on many tracks, all at the same time. I enjoy this kind of music to work to.
There is No Feeling Better (Mike Adams at His Honest Weight)
Thing is, most bands trade in songwriting for cleaner production and better drum sounds. Fortunately for us, Mike Adams never got that memo. The hooks and gorgeous vocals are here, like always, but the arrangements seem even more clean this time around. (I think I said the same thing about his last album, Casino Drone; Mike just keeps getting better.) Sure, it still sounds like Mike’s spending lots of time with his Starflyer 59 and early Weezer records, but there are some songs on There is No Feeling Better that are more Friends-era Beach Boys than Friends-era Beach Boys.
Life Metal/Pyroclasts (Sunn O))))
Like many people, I was excited to read that Sunn O))) would be recording an album with Steve Albini. But then I wondered why on earth hasn’t Sunn O))) worked with Albini before now? And when I listened to Life Metal, I hoped they would record again with him and then they announced their new record Pyroclasts was recorded at the same sessions as Life Metal and then oh my goodness these records are fantastic and they almost feel like two parts of the same album. If you’ve never listened to the band, it plays really slow, sludgy metal. Not that I’ve listened to a glacier move before, but I’m guessing the band kinda sounds like a glacier moving. I don’t know, whatever. You try to describe these records without sounding ridiculous. I guess there’s maybe a little more “going on” with Life Metal to make it “accessible”? You know, with organs, vocals, horses, and whatnot. But I don’t really compare the two.
Come What May (Joshua Redman Quartet)
The last time Redman recorded with this quartet was on the very excellent record Beyond, nineteen years ago. And, like that record, Come What May is especially catchy. Like some of his best work, Redman’s playing here can be soulful and referential in ways that feel inviting. I feel like I’ve heard this record before, but in the best way possible. Oh yeah, and his show at The Folly this autumn was fun. I felt like Gregory Hutchinson was the star of the show, with a couple amazing, melodic(?) drum solos.
Young in My Head (Starflyer 59)
I’ve only met Jason Martin a few times. Although he’s not exactly talkative, it feels like we’ve been friends for a long time. 25 years, in fact, as he reminds us in the song “Remind Me.” And what do say about an old friend? He still tips his hat a lot to Terry Scott Taylor and Joey Santiago and keeps writing songs about getting old and obsolete, but this record feels a little different. It feels maybe a little more like a “solo” album, but it also rocks. Not quite like his jump from Gold to Americana, but Young in My Head feels more like a rock album than he’s made since Old. And is it me, or is Jason starting to sound a lot like the dude from Future Islands on this record?