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26

Dec

2014

Top 15 New Classical of 2014: Stephen J Nereffid

By Stephen J. Nereffid. Posted in Classical | No Comments »

allemeierThis year I seemed to listen to a lot more new classical music; not just that, but a lot more really good new classical music, so much so that it deserves its own end-of-year list (an “old” music list will follow). I’m defining “new” music simply as music written by people who are still alive, though the bulk of what appears here is from the present century. If you know nothing about contemporary classical, let me assure you that my list is utterly unrepresentative of the overall state of the art. So, with that in mind…

#1.

John Allemeier. Deep Water: The Murder Ballads [Albany]

Ellen Smith, shot through the heart; Frankie Silver, who killed her abusive husband with his own gun and then dismembered him; and Omie Wise, seduced and drowned by a wealthy young man. Three folk songs from North Carolina inspired John Allemeier and choreographer E.E. Balcos to create a darkly lyrical trio of chamber works that together make a single piece of dance theatre. This is vivid music that doesn’t need to be seen to be believed.

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I listened to a lot of music this year.  According to last.fm I’ve listened to around 30,000 tracks, or an average of about 84 a day, in 2014.  A whole lot of those listens weren’t close listens and a lot of them were songs released prior to 2014, but a good number of them were released in the past year.  So while I certainly haven’t heard everything released this year, I’ve heard quite a bit of it and the below list is what I believe is the best.  Unlike most of the writers here at MiG I don’t focus my listening on one or two genres (unless you want to define my listening habits as “blog pop,” which is kind of accurate), so there should be something for most people here.  The blurbs about each album only scratch the surface of them, but I’m hopeful they will lead the reader to explore a couple of them more fully and that you find something you enjoy.  Happy holidays, and here’s to an even better 2015 (Sleater-Kinney is back, so that’s a good start).

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I didn’t listen to everything this year. Neither did you. I have no objective way of knowing that these are (or are not) the 20 best albums released this year. Neither do you. But these are the ones I most loved and most want to spend more time with next year, and who knows, maybe you’ll find something special here too, something you missed but can connect with and find riches in, something off your usual menu that you might come to be thankful for. If that happens even once, the list will be worthwhile. And as always, if any of the musicians drop by, thank you for the work, care, commitment, and creativity represented below.

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D'Angelo - Black MessiahD’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  After 15 years and countless false alarms, D’Angelo’s follow up to Voodoo is finally here, and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: Funky, smooth, sexy, hip hop infused, and glorious neo soul.  Lead single “Sugah Daddy” is particularly strong, but there isn’t a weak spot on the album.  Is it another Voodoo?  Probably not.  Unlike most long gestating albums from reclusive artists, however, it’s a worthy follow up and a fantastic addition to D’Angelo’s catalog.  It also has the benefit of making all previously published ‘best of 2014’ lists invalid.  Better get to revising NME, Paste, Stereogum, and Rolling Stone (well, you should have been revising already).

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Another year has come and gone.  2014 saw another new batch of bands arrive, some depart, and lot of great music get made.  As far as I’m concerned, 2014 in the Twin Cities will be defined by the teenagers who burst onto the scene.  Regardless of genre, it seems like a crazy amount of the best music was made by people who usually can’t get into the clubs they’re planning when they aren’t on stage.  That said there is still room on this list for a man pushing 70 and room at the top for a guy who suddenly finds himself a part of the old guard despite only having been on the scene since about 2006.

As usual, these are just my personal top 15 of the year.  I can guarantee I missed something despite my best efforts to avoid it.  In fact, City Pages just published a list of the best local punk albums of the year and I don’t recognize a couple of them.  So once I publish this list, I’ll be heading over there to explore.  For now, though, here are my favorite Twin Cities albums for 2014.

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The Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments to an ElegyThe Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy

A Smashing Pumpkins album with Tommy Lee on drums and a running time of a mere 32 minutes?  I’m intrigued.  Oddly, even with the incredibly short (for Billy Corgan) running time, this is one of the more varied Pumpkins albums in terms of sound.  It has the heavy rockers you expect (“One and All”), but also has quieter moments (“Being Beige”), electronic based dance tunes (“Run2me”), and is that a flute on “Drum + Fife”?  Based on the title I guess that makes sense.  Surprisingly, on first listen at least, the album holds together despite these variations, and provides a very enjoyable listen.  It is way too early to know if Monuments to an Elegy will have the stickiness of its excellent predecessor Oceania, but it has that potential.

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Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper at Soundset 2014

I love live music.  There are few things in this world I enjoy more than going to a show and seeing an artist interpret their music in a live setting, so I get to as many shows as I can.  In 2014 that means I’ve seen 88 different sets of music (with several more on the calendar before the year changes).  Of those 88 sets, these are the 15 best:

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3

Dec

2014

Review: Sea Island by loscil

By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Drone, Electronic, Reviews | 2 Comments »

Sea Island

Several years ago, during a visit to Vancouver, I seized the chance to make a musical pilgrimage. Loscil’s First Narrows has long been a favorite of mine, especially the title track. Languorous underlying drones create a dreamy atmosphere, meticulously placed skittering touches keep the surface complex, the bass layer is unobtrusive yet interesting once you focus there, and mid-range acoustic instruments keep a hypnotic almost-melody going to carry the whole thing forward. It’s a remarkable union of stasis and forward motion that relaxes and fascinates equally.

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Trash Kit - ConfidenceTrash Kit – Confidence

Trash Kit is a post punk trio out of England.  Being a female band leads to lots of comparisons to The Slits and Raincoats and Trash Kit certainly has the hooks those bands did, but Confidence reminds me (and this is splitting hairs a bit) more of New York No Wave acts.  It’s not quite as shambling as a Lizzy Mercier Descloux or James Chance, but there is still a sense the music could fall apart at any moment.  The songs all hang together, though, (primarily due to their throbbing tribal beats) and they present a thoroughly enjoyable whole that explores some truly wonderful melodies and sounds.

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