Favorites from 2018

2018 is done, so it’s time to look back at the Blailist’s favorite music from this crazy year. I had a hard time editing my revolving playlist and found myself returning to several artists who I feel deserve special attention. MITSKI, KACEY MUSGRAVES and TRACEY THORN each provided career highlights with each at a different point in their career. Others, like ELVIS COSTELLO and JEFF TWEEDY, clearly showed their continuing relevance in a changing music world. Let’s look back, shall we.

(A link to the Spotify playlist is at conclusion).

  • TRACEY THORN “Queen” from Record. TRACEY THORN set out to make an album whose sound captured a PET SHOP BOYS feel and ended up making a mature and beautiful collection of songs from a women’s perspective, most of which you can dance to. TRACEY continues to inspire – as a musician, an author, a columnist for the The New Statesmen, or even as a calming influence on Twitter. This was by far my favorite album of this past year. Everyone I played it for loved it and sought it out. So the Blailist is bookended by two excellent songs from this amazing album.

  • THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE QUEEN “Merrie Land” from Merrie Land. DAMON ALBARN’s supergroup return with their first outing in 11 years. Brexit is a big topic here. Coupled with a nice release from GORILLAZ in 2018, its clear DAMON takes no breaks. it is impressive how much good music this guy produces.

  • GWENNO “Tir Ha Mor” from Le Kov. Following 2015’s excellent Y Dydd Olaf, gives us another beautiful electronic sound wash written and sung mostly in Welsh but also featuring some Cornish, a nearly lost language.

  • THE FERNWEH “The Liar” from The Fernweh. “Fernweh” means wanderlust in German. Enough reason to like this. The solo at the end just adds to it for me.

  • U.S. GIRLS “Pearly Gates” from In a Poem Unlimited. This one is hard to get out of your head once you hear it.

  • BEACH HOUSE “Dark Spring” from 7. Dreamy…

  • STEVE MASON “Stars Around My Heart” from Stars Around My Heart.   I do not know anything about STEVE MASON‘s prior work in BETA BAND, but this sounds something from another era, even before Brit Pop. One of my favorite songs from this year.

  • MOLLY BURCH “To The Boys” from First Flower. New to me but she sounds like she’s from another time. I love that voice and that delivery.

  • LAURA VEIRS “The Lookout” from The Lookout. By now, you all pretty much know that if there is a new LAURA VEIRS album out, it’s gonna end up on this list. The Lookout is another stunning collection from a master songwriter.

  • I’M WITH HER “See You Around” from See You Around. SARA WATKINS, AIOFE O’DONOVAN and SARA JOROSZ teamed up for this wonderful album. It’s a true collaboration, yet each of their distinctive skills shine through enough to know who is doing what. To truly appreciate their immense talents, you should see them live. I had the pleasure of doing that earlier this year – spellbinding from the first note until the end. Here is their Tiny Desk concert, which clearly captures the virtuosity and beautiful harmonies from three true pros.

  • AMANDA SHIRES “Leave It Alone” from To The Sunset. I came late to AMANDA SHIRES but, after seeing her and JASON ISBELL at the Ryman Auditorium in October, I am now on the firmly seated on the bandwagon. In one of the front rows.

  • CAROLINE ROSE “Money” from LONER. So did I.

  • PARQUET COURTS “Freebird II” from Wide Awake. Two reasons to like this. Because IGGY POP loves them and because the name of this song. Oh, a third reason, this is a fucking great song,

  • MK.GEE “I Know How You Get” from Pronounced Mcgee. Thanks to Oskar for showing me this poppy little number with groovy guitar.

  • ARIANA GRANDE “no tears left to cry” from Sweetner. Tough year for this artist. This is a great great pop song. Check out QUESTLOVE below.

  • LOU HAYTER “Cherry On Top” (single). London based DJ makes some catchy dancey poppy musiks. BBC 6 played this one over and over.

  • KARA MARNI “Move” from Move. Thanks to BEN WATT’s Spin Cycle for finding this. You should check it out on Spotify if you are in the mood for discovery. BEN helps me find so much good stuff. The original version is also amazing.

  • ROBYN “Honey” from Honey. I know ROBYN from her collaboration with ROYKSOPP, but she has a career full of perfect Swedish electro pop that is hard to ignore. Her latest shows she is still at the top of her game.

  • ARC IRIS “If You Can See” from Icon of Ego. Almost unclassifiable, this album from ex-LOW ANTHEM’s JOCIE ADAMS has bits of prog, some pedal steel, some electronica and accessible catchy songs. This was a great discovery this year. Thanks to BBC 6.

  • JULIA HOLTER “I Shall Love 2” from Aviary. Speaking of BBC 6, this song was played often on 6 throughout the fall. Every time I heard it I was reminded of how vital radio can still be, even if in other parts of the world. This is not a radio song as we know it here in the U.S. Hearing this song over and over reveals many layers. each listen reveals something new that makes you yearn to hear it again and again. Much like BRIAN ENO has done in the past, she makes you want to peel back the layers to discover different things each time you listen.

  • MITSKI “Nobody” from Be The Cowboy. MITSKI continues to amaze. This is arguably the best album she has made and the best out this year. And, from a stunning album of amazing songs of real emotion, this one stuck out. You cannot get this out of your head, so don’t even try!

  • LAURA JEAN “Girls On The TV” from Devotion. From Australia, strong songwriting and powerful images. This song is particularly haunting.

  • LITTLE SIMZ “Offence” from Offence. New song from British rapper. I’m Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days.

  • JEFF TWEEDY “Some Birds” from WARM. I have never been as enthusiastic about Tweedy as so many others have been. But you have to acknowledge his songwriting prowess.

  • ROSEANNE CASH “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For” from She Remembers Everything. CASH is one our generations best songwriters, so that’s always a given. I especially liked this one because of hubby JOHN LEVENTHAL’s tasteful Strat.

  • KACEY MUSGRAVES “Slow Burn” from Golden Hour. Another strong candidate for favorite album of the year. KACEY is revealing herself to be a master songwriter and the production of this album is so cool. Check out the instrumental bridge, which reminds me of THE BEATLES. There is a lot going on here.

  • BRANDI CARLISLE “The Joke” from By the Way, I Forgive You. My three or four readers already know I really really love big ballads.

  • LOW CUT CONNIE “Beverly” from Dirty Pictures Pt. 2. Just discovering these guys – this is a fantastic song.

  • PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING “White Star Liner” from White Star Liner. It’s always a good time for history lesson. And it’s always a good time for Blailist to go off on a tangent.

  • PUBLIC PRACTICE “Foundation” from Distance Is A Mirror (EP). I could not find out much about this band. One article says they are a DIY supergroup and are from Brooklyn. The article also drew a similar conclusion to what I immediately thought of when I first heard them. Could they be a reincarnation of TOM TOM CLUB or Fear of Music Era-TALKING HEADS?

  • THE VACCINES “I Can’t Quit” from Combat Sports. I want to dismiss these guys as juvenile one trick ponies but they keep coming up with the most catchy hooks. So I need to get over it.

  • ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter” from Look Now. This is ELVIS absolutely at the top of his game. A few years ago, I saw the tour where ELVIS and the IMPOSTERS played much of Imperial Bedroom and it was incredible. From what I’ve read since, ELVIS said he felt that tour proved there is nothing that the THE IMPOSTERS cannot do. This album was made in part to demonstrate that. In addition to the versatility of his band, this album also shows that there is nothing that ELVIS COSTELLO, as a songwriter, cannot do, and do well. I tried to find a good clip of the new BURT BACHARACH songs, to no avail, but this one, co-written with CAROLE KING (another songwriting legend), really shows that the IMPOSTERS are one of the best bands ever.

  • HUBERT LENOIR “Fille de personne II” from Darlene. Last minute addition! Who knew this could come from Quebec City? Can we somehow twist this into convincing the NHL that the Nordiques need to return!

  • TRACEY THORN “Dancefloor” from Record. And as has become custom in the past few years, we return where we started. This song closes TRACEY’s album and it is absolutely perfect. In two brief verses, the listener is taken back to a place in life where the drama of real life only exists to interrupt the refuge of the dance floor. And the song is so brief it leaves you wanting more, which is how you usually feel at the end of a good night.

Here’s the playlist. It includes a few more songs:

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Favorites from 2017

This is my 11th year end playlist and The Blailist’s 7th!  Wow, time flies.   I listened to a lot of music this year to take my mind off other things.  At one point this list contained 114 songs.  So 2017 provided many great musiks!  I also created a playlist of best Anti Trump songs.  (That’s on Spotify).

First, let’s focus on my favorite music from the past year.  There was some wonderful stuff made, including some new favorites from my all time favorite artists and some brand new music I never knew existed!   Please enjoy.   This playlist is also on Spotify: Blailist Favorites of 2017.

 

1. ELBOW  “Magnificent (She Says)”     from the album Little Fictions.

We saw ELBOW during their North American tour at the 9:30 Club.  It was one of the great musical experiences I have ever had.  I find that most people in the US have no idea who ELBOW is, yet everyone in the audience knew the words to almost every song.  Hmmm…

 

2.  JENS LEKMAN  “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?”     from Life Will See You Now.

Already my favorite Jens album.  He has been on this list before.  If you don’t know Jens, you should.

 

3. LOURDE  “The Louvre”     from Melodrama.

I am surprised I like this as much as I do.  The next few songs actually fall into that category.

 

4.  HARRY STYLES  “Sing Of The Times” from Harry Styles.   (but seriously, who is buying a Harry Styles album?)

I thought ONE DIRECTION were the offspring of THE SPICE GIRLS.  I was disappointed and disillusioned to find out they were not.  But then I saw Dunkirk, and it eased my pain a little.  Then I heard this fabulously bombastic ballad and now I’m a HARRY STYLES fan.  Even if his mom is not BABY SPICE.

 

5. SAMPHA  “No One Knows Me Like The Piano”     from Process.

Thanks to my son for showing me this guy.  He’s worked as a producer with many cool people like DRAKE and JESSIE WARE.

 

6. JESSIE WARE  “Selfish Love”     from Glasshouse.

Speaking of JESSIE WARE…  She is consistently wonderful and this is a beautiful song.

 

7.  SPARKS  “What The Hell Is It This Time?”     from Hippopotamus.

Pretty cool stuff from a couple 70 year olds, eh?

 

8.  MERSAULT  “The Mill”     from I Will Kill Again.

I discovered MERSAULT from Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour radio program on BBC Radio 6.  This song, more than others, has been in my head this past year.

 

9.  ROSE ELINOR DOUGALL  “Coulor Of Water”    from Stellular.

Great song with a killer hook that takes over at the end.

 

10.  GRANDADDY  “Way We Won’t”      from Last Place.

GRANDADDY return after many years and pick up where they left off.  Good stuff.

Now the next few are some of my old favorites who put out excellent new music this year.

11.  TED LEO  “Can’t Go Back”      from The Hanged Man.

TED LEO is an old favorite of mine who definitely knows how to rock and whose lyrics are biting.  With no new music in something like 7 years, I now just look forward to his clever back and forth banter with AIMEE MANN on Twitter, but this new album could be his best.  I’ve included a cool acoustic version here.  (The album version is on the Spotify playlist).

 

12.  PAUL WELLER  “Woo Se Mama”      from A Kind Revolution.

Finally saw saw the Modfather for the first time in Boston.  Absolutely fucking amazing.  This was the band and this is what it sounded like.

 

13.  PAUL KELLY  “Finally Something Good”      from Life Is Fine.

Another strong collection of good songs from the Aussie legend.

 

14.  NEIL FINN  “Second Nature”     from Out Of Silence.

Recorded and filmed live for the world to see in one night in late August, the album Out Of Silence was released a week later.   I woke up at 3am to watch them record and was amazed that something so complete and beautiful could be created so quickly.  In a catalog of classic albums, this is a work of art, created in a unique way.

 

15.  RAY DAVIES  “Americana”        from Americana.

This reminds me of Muswell Hillbillies.   On this album, his backing band is THE JAYHAWKS.  Not too shabby.

 

16.  RANDY NEWMAN  “It’s A Jungle Out There”       from Dark Matter.

What can I say?

 

17.  LIAM GALLAGHER  “Wall Of Glass”      from As You Were.

Guilty pleasure.  I cannot see myself sitting through an entire album though.

 

18.  KING KRULE  “Dum Surfer”      from The OOZ.

Kinda Jazzy, with lots of naughty language.

 

19.  LOYLE CARNER  “Ain’t Nothing Changed”      from Yesterday’s Gone

His excellent album was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

 

20.  NERINA PALLOT  “Stay Lucky”       from Stay Lucky.

I love the lyrics in this song.  Thanks to my daughter for showing me this.

 

21.  SUSANNE SUNDFOR  “Undercover”      from Music For People In Trouble.

Her new album is simply great.  Another highlight this year was her participation in the Proms honoring SCOTT WALKER with JARVIS COCKER and RICHARD HAWLEY.  One of the most impressive voices.

 

22.  JANE WEAVER  “The Architect”       from Modern Kosmology.

I discovered her this year.  This is one of my favorite albums of the year.

 

23. PHOEBE BRIDGERS  “Motion Sickness”       from Stranger In The Alps.

This is a more subdued version than the original album version but still quite powerful, with awesome guitar tone.

 

24.  ALL OUR EXES LIVE IN TEXAS  ” Boundary Road”       from When We Fall.

They are from Australia, but all their exes are from Texas?  That really seems unlikely but they harmonize nicely.

 

25.  BIG THIEF  “Shark Smile”       from Shark Smile.

Love that guitar.

 

26.  AMBER COFFMAN  “All To Myself”       from City Of No Reply.

She was in DIRTY PROJECTORS.

 

27.  DENT MAY  “Face Down In The Gutter Of Your Love”     from Face Down In The Gutter Of Your Love.

What does that mean?

 

28.  JONNIE COMMON  “Restless”       (single)

C DUNCAN did a nice re-mix of this sing.  Then I saw this video and, well, I had to include it.

 

29. TINARIWEN  “Sastanaqqam”      from Elwan.

Guitar heros.  They continue to put out awesome music.

 

30.  ELBOW  “All Disco”       from Little Fictions.

And we’ll close with another from my favorite album of the year.

 

There you have it.  Again, you can listen to the playlist on my Spotify.

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Favorites from 2016

kb-picLet’s hope 2016 will be remembered for the music and not the other crap.  Some awful things happened.  I mean could anything be worse than the Canadiens collapse this past spring?  Maybe the end of humanity.  Wait, then that happened too.  So, we turn to music when we are down and here is my list of favorites from this notorious year, in no particular order – although I did try to make it flow well and maybe select songs that are a little more upbeat than usual.  Stay with it, because at the end I am inspired enough to be optimistic, which is my new full time goal for 2017.

1. ROLLING STONES  “Hate To See You Go”  (from Blue And Lonesome).   Wow where did this come from?  Who’d have thought?  And the album completely lives up to the hype.  And a STONES first: inclusion on this prestigious list.

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2.  THE I DON’T CARES  ” Born For Me”  (from Wild Stab).   They are Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield.  Two of my favorite bands were the Replacements and The Blake Babies.  So, for me, this is like a musical peanut butter cup.

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3. THE GOON SAX  “Up To Anything”  (from Up To Anything).   They were compared to The Go-Betweens, probably because Louis Forster is Robert Forster’s son. Or maybe the girl drummer.  They are not even 18 yrs old yet.  I’ll keep watching to see what happens.

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4. TEENAGE FANCLUB  “I’m In Love”  (from Here).  They have been doing the same thing for a long time and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perfect power pop song.

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5. BIG THIEF  “Masterpiece”  (from Masterpiece).

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6. ANGEL OLSEN  ‘Shut Up Kiss Me”  (from My Woman).

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7.  EMMA POLLOCK  “Dark Skies”  (from In Search Of Harperfield).  Emma was in the fabulous Scottish band The Delgados for years.  I am very fond of a couple of their albums and this may be even better.

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8. MICHAEL KIWANUKA  “Black Man In A White World”  (from Love and Hate). This was featured on The Get Down – which is great – because more people will discover this guy.

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9. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST  “We The People…”  (from We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service).

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10. ANDERSON.PAAK  “Am I Wrong”  (from Malibu).

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11. THE 1975  “Somebody Else”  (from I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It).  Guilty pleasure.

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12. BAT FOR LASHES  “Sunday Love”  (from The Bride).  Another awesome album from Natasha Khan.

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13. MITSKI  “Your Best American Girl”  (from Puberty 2).

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14. CHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS  “Titled”  (from Christine And The Queens). From France, which is still part of the EU.

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15. JOAN AS POLICEWOMAN and BENJAMIN LAZAR  “Broke Me In Two”  (from Let It Be You).

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16. CASE/LANG/VEIRS  “Delirium”  (from Case/Lang/Veirs).  It was hard for me to choose one song off this album.  This clip is from an excellent show in Portland OR where they perform the album in its running order for the first time.  I am very sorry I didn’t get off my ass and go see them this past summer because these things don’t happen all the time.

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17. CARRIE RODRIGUEZ  “Frio En El Alma” (from Lola).   This is a great album because it mixes everything she does so well. I selected this traditional song that her great aunt Eva Garza also sang.

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18. ANDERS OSBOURNE  “Life Don’t Last That Long”  (from Spacedust and Ocean Views).  I know nothing about this guy and when I looked him up he’s probably not my cup of tea but there is something I love about this song so here it is.

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19. THE JAYHAWKS  “Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces”  (from Paging Mr. Proust). More of the same but I cannot resist the harmonies of this band.

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20. STURGILL SIMPSON  “In Bloom”  (from A Sailors Guide To Earth). This is hands down the best Nirvana cover.  Brilliant.

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21. TEDDY THOMPSON AND KELLY JONES  “Never Knew You Loved Me Too”  (from Little Windows).  I am surprised I did not see this on a lot of best of lists (Hello No Depression?).  This is some ass kicking collection of original Countrypolitan tunes beautifully sung.  Inclusion on this prestigious list will ease the sting the artists must feel.

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22. DAVE DOBBYN  “You Get So Lonely”  (from Harmony House).  Despite the fact I may have selected another song from this album (…thanks You Tube!), DD albums are so rare, I am not passing up my chance to include the iconic Kiwi on one of my year end lists. There is an entire world below the equator that people apparently live in. I must do my part to tell the rest of the world that goes on down there.

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23. GLASS ANIMALS  “Life Itself”  (from How To Be A Human Being).

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24. RADIOHEAD  “Burn The Witch”  (from A Moon Shaped Pool).

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25.  DAVID BOWIE  “I Can’t Give Everything Away”  (from Blackstar).  I think what I have taken away from Bowie’s passing is that, no matter what, you always have the music. Blackstar is fabulous and important.

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26. KATE BUSH  “And Dream Of Sheep”  (from Before The Dawn).  I am so excited about the release of the live album from Kate Bush that I think it has actually changed my mood in light of recent events.  Kate Bush’s music is some of the greatest ever and this live album captures that perfectly.  She sounds amazing.  It’s truly inspiring and it gives us reason to be optimistic. Happy 2017 bitches!

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You can follow Blailist on Spotify and listen to this playlist over and over without watching the annoying ads before the videos.

And for an extra bonus here are links to two cool musicians I happen to know personally:

 

and

osk

https://oskavelli.bandcamp.com/album/ep1

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Favorites from 2015

downloadGoodbye 2015!  Thanks for the swell music!   Thanks to Son and Daughter of Blailist for helping to compile this year’s list.  I was excited about the return of BLUR (my favorite album) and ROBERT FORSTER (7 years is too long between releases!)   Included is a little of everything that has rubbed off on me during the past year.

  1.  DAVID BOWIE  “Blackstar”  (single).  This was the teaser from the new Bowie which comes out in a week or so.  Many are saying it’s one of his best.  This is truly remarkable from a 69 yr old!

 

2.   BLUR  “Go Out”   (from The Magic Whip).

 

3.  SILICON  “God Emoji”  (from Silicon).  Kody Nielson is back!!

 

4.  UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA  “Multi-Love”  (from Multi-Love).  Brother Ruban Nielson is also back!!

 

5.  WAXAHATCHEE  “Under A Rock”  (from Ivy Tripp).    Good tone.

 

6.  THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION  “Bob Lennon John Dylan”  (from Give Up Your Dreams).

 

7.  SUSANNE SUNDFOR  “Fade Away”  (from Ten Love Songs).   Alice turned me on to this very good artist.

 

8.  TORRES  “Sprinter”  (from Sprinter).  In return, I turned Alice on to this.

 

9.  JUSTIN BEIBER  “What Do You Mean?”  (from Purpose).  Yup, this song made the list.  it’s a great pop song.

 

10.  BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE  “London”  (from At Least For Now).

 

11.  KENDRICK LAMAR  “King Kunta”  (from To Pimp A Butterfly).

 

12.  KAMASI WASHINGTON  “Leroy and Lanisha”  (from The Epic).  Oskar turned me on to this!

 

13.  PANDA BEAR  “Boys Latin”  (from Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper).  And this.

 

14.  GWENNO  “Chwyldro”  (from Y Didd Olaf).   I was right about THE PIPETTES all those years ago.

 

15.  C DUNCAN  “Garden”  (from Architect).

 

16.  ROBERT FORSTER  “Let Me Imagine You”  (from Songs To Play).

 

17.  RICHARD HAWLEY  “Heart Of Oak”  (from Hollow Meadows).   Hawley’s tribute to the great NORMA WATERSON.  My favorite song of the year from a great album through and through.

 

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18.  COURTNEY BARNETT  “Pedestrian At Best”  (from Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit).

 

19.  LOS LOBOS  “Made To Break Your Heart”  (from Gates Of Gold).

 

20.  KACEY MUSGRAVES  “High Time”  (from Pageant Material).  I missed the boat on her first album but I guess she is the real deal.

 

21.  ALLISON MOORER  “Down To Believing”  (from Down To Believing).

 

22.  PAUL WELLER  “Pick It Up”  (from Saturn’s Pattern).   Is it me, or does MARTIN FREEMAN look really old in this video?

 

23.  HOLLY HERNDON  “Interference”  (from Platform).

 

24.  SUFJAN STEVENS  “Should Have Known Better”  (from Carrie and Lowell).

 

25.  BLUR  “There Are Too Many Of Us”   (from The Magic Whip).   Unlike other years, when I struggle to whittle the choices down, on first glance 2015 seemed kind of bleak. But then putting this together, and listening to this playlist, it actually seems kind of awesome.  I really liked the BLUR so we end with them.

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Allen Toussaint

atALLEN TOUSSAINT passed away this week.   I’m sure the first time I was aware of him was when I heard his great piano playing on ELVIS COSTELLO‘s “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror”.  Thanks to Elvis, I discovered the great ALLEN TOUSSAINT.  There is so much great music to be discovered by looking to our favorites and seeing where the chain reaction leads. With TOUSSAINT, I began to notice him on so many records.  I quickly learned how much great music he had his hand in, either as a producer or as a songwriter. This path of discovery has been repeated so many times for me, but TOUSSAINT’s was less a path and more like the Pacific Crest Trail – epic!  The trail led all over the place. His work as a producer can take the listeners in all different directions.  His songs were covered by so many people and provided hits to many of them.  His collaborations often blended genres.  His signature arrangements, sought out by other legends, enhanced so many recordings. Finally, there is his wonderful piano playing. Listen to TOUSSAINT’s “Tipitina and Me” and try not to go dig up some PROFESSOR LONGHAIR. TOUSSAINT leads you to so many places.

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed TOUSSAINT’s beloved New Orleans, TOUSSAINT was quoted as saying “I know that for anything this bad to happen, there has to be something just as good coming along to balance it out.” That’s a remarkably positive attitude to have in the wake of that tragedy but it makes sense when you hear some of TOUSSIANT’s lyrics. Songs like “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further” or “Yes We Can Can” both speak the truth and inspire hope. His legacy is wide reaching and his talents inspired so many but I will always return to where the trail started – his piano and his songs.

This is a great version of my favorite TOUSSAINT song, this is what I’m talking about.

Another great one.

I can’t stop – one more…

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The Sorcerer of the Guitar – Franco

FrancoArzoni1977AG335“World Music”.  Yuk.  The term puts music in a box and suggests the music is inaccessible.  It implies that you will probably have to work hard to get it – to understand and enjoy it – just because it’s from another part of the world.  DAVID BYRNE once wrote a piece for the NY Times in which he joked “world music” is a bin in the record store for all the stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere else in the store.  As I have written here many times before, I strongly feel music is music.  All genres owe each other for the ingredients that go into them.  It’s absurd that the western music business labeled music from other cultures as “world” to begin with.  So much of Rock n Roll came from the blues, and ethnomusicologists often point to evidence of that genre’s African origins.  So were the STONES and CREAM just covering world music?  I could go on forever but there are countless examples of this cross pollination and there always have been.  To some kid with a guitar in his hands growing up in Africa in the 1990s, JIMI HENDRIX or MARK KNOPFLER were exotic “world music”; and to some kid in Japan learning to play percussion in the 1970’s, BILL BRUFORD or STEWART COPELAND created exotic jazz influenced rhythms unheard in his taiko roots.  Fast forward to African guitarist BOMBINO working with members of BLACK KEYS and Japanese percussionist SHUICHI HIDANO gigging with long tenured L.A. studio musicians.  It’s not so much “world music” but a “world of music.”

I have been meaning to post about FRANCO (born Francois Luambo Luanzo Makiadi 1938-1989) for a few years.  He has been hailed as the “sorcerer of the guitar”, “the master of the Cogolese guitar” and, by some, because of his stature in African music, as the “James Brown of Africa.”  FRANCO was a guitar playing band leader, reluctant singer and genre inventing musician.  His influence on western music is grossly undervalued and overlooked.  With his bands (OK JAZZ and, later, TPOK JAZZ) playing a style called “soukous”, described by music critic Ted Gioia as “African music that came from Cuba”, FRANCO became the most popular African artist of the 1960s and 1970s.  FRANCO was born near Leopoldville in 1938 in what was then called the Belgian Congo.  Cuban music had infiltrated the Congo, likely through trade ports and the cultural mixing pot of the colonial era.  FRANCO spent time as a kid in the ports soaking up the influences and built his first guitar himself when he was 7 years old.  By 15 he had a recording contract and was a popular band leader.  Four decades later, his career had seen him hailed as a hero and cultural icon and had absorbed numerous scandals.  It’s quite a story.  (Google it)

Soukous music is buoyant and irresistible. FRANCO‘s bands from the late 1950s through the 1980s were mostly large ensembles playing these Congolese Rhumbas that were built around incredible guitar lines.  As a counterpoint to all the blues based playing that is so entrenched in rock and pop for the past 50 years, FRANCO and his style are fresh and, in contrast, sound happy and upbeat.  Although usually embedded deep into the songs, FRANCO‘s guitar always helps build the excitement of each song with a beautiful rhythmic “sebene”. The instrumental sebene is a bit like a guitar solo or a bridge that cranks the (already rhythmic, groove heavy) song up a notch to encourage the audience to dance.  Afterwards, the song usually returns to the Rhumba style.  After a crappy week at work, a little FRANCO snaps me right out of it.

I’ve included a few examples here:

FRANCO and Le T.P O.K. JAZZ – “Falaswa”

 

FRANCO and Le OK JAZZ – “Infidelite Mado”

 

FRANCO and Le T.P O.K JAZZ – “Alimatou”

 

For more, check out my FRANCO mix on Spotify too.

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Favorites of 2014

Although Blailist was relatively quiet this past year, I did find some groovy new music in 2014. Here is a playlist that includes the highlights for me. Included (as usual) are old favorites ROBYN HITCHCOCK, NEIL FINN and LUCINDA WILLIAMS who had a wonderful double album.  Some great new discoveries were KATE TEMPEST, ALVVAYS and KHUN NARIN’s ELECTRIC PHIN BAND.  But my favorite for the year bookends this playlist.  KAMI THOMPSON and JAMES WALBOURNE had quite a year with their album as the THE RAILS and their contribution to the THOMPSON FAMILY album.  Let’s have a listen, shall we?

thomp1.  THOMPSON  “Careful”   (from Thompson 2014)

This is one of KAMI‘s contributions to her brother TEDDY THOMPSON’s pet project of getting the band (or family) back together. For those who don’t know the story, TEDDY and KAMI were just children when British folk legends RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON split in the 80s.  The kid’s successful careers have further enhanced the reputation of their parents and have helped firmly establish the THOMPSON FAMILY as Britain’s first family of folk.  This is a very cool album featuring all things THOMPSON: LINDA’s classic voice, RICHARD, grandson guitar hero ZAC HOBBS, son (from second marriage) JACK THOMPSON’s snazzy bass playing, husband and wife KAMI and JAMES, sister MUNA, and other assorted THOMPSON relatives and contributions. Aside from great playing and singing, you get the sense of the competitiveness between the family members when it comes to songwriting. It’s great they got together but I hope they are all still talking…

 

luc2.  LUCINDA WILLIAMS “Protection”  (from Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone 2014).

Fantastic double album from LUCINDA. All her best rolled into one.

 

war3.  WAR ON DRUGS “Lost In The Dream” (from Lost In The Dream 2014).

Picked as best album of year on many lists, deservedly so. I, too, have jumped on the wagon.

 

bry4.  BRYAN FERRY “Loop Di Li”  (from Avonmore 2014).

BF is a revered old favorite, and this sounds like could have been on Boys and Girls.

 

elbow5.  ELBOW “New York Morning” (from The Takeoff And Landing Of Everything 2014).

 

download6.  NEIL FINN “Dizzy Heights”  (from Dizzy Heights 2014).

Another family affair.  This album was made basically by NEIL, wife SHARON, and sons LIAM and ELROY. I had the pleasure of seeing them in Boston in April. No LIAM but ELROY was there. NEIL had an absolutely fantastic band with lush harmonies and arrangements up and down those FINN and CROWDED HOUSE songs. It was one of the most inspiring shows I have ever seen.

 

nina7.  NINA PERSSON “Catch Me Crying”  (from Animal Heart 2014).

The ex-CARDIGANS singer made an excellent solo album this year.

 

jessie8.  JESSIE WARE “Say You Love Me”  (from Tough Love 2014).

Britain continues to find soulful singers that keep DUSTY and DIONNE fresh in our memories.  I dig ballads too so I have no problem with any of this.

 

robyn9.  ROBYN HITCHCOCK “The Ghost Of You”  (from The Man Upstairs 2014).

ROBYN HITCHCOCK has recently come back into focus for me.  Years ago, he was a college favorite of mine, he has apparently continued to put out great stuff all these years that I am now just discovering.  I like covers but I am usually wary of covers albums that show up late in a career (ROD STEWART) – it sometimes seems desperate. RH has the superpowers to pull it off. Who can imagine anything but the PSYCHEDELIC FURS‘ version?  Yet, somehow, this seems like the original. That’s pretty cool.

 

kate10. KATE TEMPEST “The Beigeness”  (from Everybody Down 2014).

I discovered her because she was nominated for Mercury Prize this year.

 

bp11.  THE BAD PLUS “Gold Prisms Incorporated”  (from Inevitable Western 2014).

We are short on jazz this year but this makes up for it.  No Jazz flute either, sorry.

 

ben12.  BEN WATT “Golden Ratio”  (from Hendra 2014).

One of the rare Blailist entires this year covered this album, his first solo in something like 25 years.  Very chill.

 

temples13.  TEMPLES “Shelter Song”  (from Sun Structures 2014).

Very Very Groovy.  This makes me wanna grow weird plants in my yard.

 

real14. REAL ESTATE “The Bend”  (from Atlas 2014).

More great things from Ridgewood NJ!

 

benhow15.  BEN HOWARD “End Of The Affair”  (from I Forget Where We Were 2014).

This performance sold me on listening to his second album.  What a great song.

 

alvvays16. ALVVAYS  “Archie Marry Me”  (from Alvvays 2014).

I consulted with the experts here and this could be classified as “dream pop”, sort of.

 

nickm17. NICK MULVEY  “Fever To The Form”  (from First Mind 2014).

This song needed to be included for the year.

 

rose18. ROSEANNE CASH “The Sunken Lands”  (from The River And The Thread 2014).

Great songwriter and great song from an album full of them and some fancy guitar by hubby JOHN LEVENTHAL.

 

sturg19.  STURGILL SIMPSON “Life Of Sin”  (from Metamodern Sounds In Country Music 2014).

If “Metamodern” means great tone and sounding like Waylon, then we could all stand to be a bit more metamodern.

 

rbtellis20. ROBERT ELLIS “Good Intentions”  (from The Lights From The Chemical Plant 2014).

Creepy Country music.  Kind of reminds me of JIMMIE DALE GILMOUR.  Skip ahead 40 seconds to miss the product promotion for the pre-amp, unless you are in the market for one, then hear the guy out and maybe you have found the pre-amp you are looking for.

 

eno21. ENO + HYDE “Daddy’s Car”  (from Someday World 2014).

BRIAN ENO and KARL HYDE (of UNDERWORLD) made two albums this year! This is from the first one, which is a bit more oriented towards the ENO-BYRNE stuff of years ago that many of us can’t get enough of. The album features WILL CHAMPION of COLDPLAY and ENO‘s old pal from ROXY MUSIC, ANDY MACKAY.

 

warpaint22. WARPAINT “Love Is To Die”  (from Warpaint 2014).

I like this version. I think I have those same drums in my garage.

 

khun23. KHUN NARIN ELECTRIC PHIN BAND “Sut Saanan #2”  (from Khun Narin Electric Phin Band 2014).

I can’t remember how I stumbled across this but the story goes someone found a You Tube video titled “Mind blowing psychedelia from Thailand” and then a LA record producer went to meet them in their remote village, and now I have their first album. There is still amazing things to discover out there.  Check out their other videos playing on plastic chairs in rural Thailand with a homemade generator for power.

 

david24. DAVID KILGOUR AND THE HEAVY EIGHTS  “Christopher Columbus” (from End Times Undone 2014).

New Zealand rocker who has been around for a long time, I discovered him a few years ago and am now a big fan.

 

rails25. THE RAILS  “William Taylor”  (from Fair Warning 2014).

And we wrap it up how we started.  Unlike when I blogged about them here earlier this year, THE RAILS can now be purchased and listened to in the US!  I can now push my British folk obsession on everyone I know.

 

Go to Spotify to listen to this public playlist: Blailist Favorites 2014 

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2014 Mercury Prize Nominees

mercOk, time to check out some new music as selected by the Mercury Prize Committee.  The nominees for best British and Irish music make an interesting (and sort of diverse) play list:

 

 

 

1.  ANNA CALVI  “Eliza”  (from One Breath 2013).  This is her second nomination.  I can see why they like her so much.

 

2.  BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB  “Luna”  (from So Long, See You Tomorrow 2014).

 

3.  DAMON ALBARN  “Mr. Tembo”  (from Everyday Robots 2014).

 

4.   EAST INDIA YOUTH  “Dripping”  (from Total Strife Forever 2014).

 

5.  FKA TWIGS  “Two Weeks”  (from LP1 2014).

 

6.  GOGO PENGUIN  “Garden Dog BBQ”  (from V2.0 2013).  Whoa!  Jazz!

 

7.  JUNGLE  “Time”  (from Jungle 2014).

 

8.  KATE TEMPEST  “The Beigeness”  (from Everybody Down 2014).  This is awesome.

 

9.  NICK MULVEY  “Fever To The Form”  (from First Mind 2014).

 

10.  POLAR BEAR  “Be Free”  (from Each And Every One 2014).  Whoa, more jazz!

 

11.  YOUNG FATHERS  “Get Up”  (from Dead 2014).

 

12.  ROYAL BLOOD  “Out Of The Black”  (from Royal Blood 2014).

 

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The Rails “Habit”

Whoa!  Has it really been months since my last post?  Well I’ll try to make up for in the coming weeks.  I stumbled across this by accident.  THE RAILS are KAMI THOMPSON and JAMES WALBOURNE.  KAMI, mentioned here before, is of course, RICHARD and LINDA‘s daughter.  And JAMES has been a member of SON VOLT, PERNICE BROTHERS and, more recently, his excellent guitar work has led him to be sideman for RAY DAVIES.

Frustratingly, one cannot easily purchase or obtain their recent album “Fair Warning” in the US.  So I keep hearing bits and pieces of the album and like what I have heard. This little gem, “Habit”, has been reworked by another guitar hero, BERNARD BUTLER.

Their Soundcloud has a few songs on it.  Note that Island record label. Pretty cool that KAMI shows up on that label almost 40 years after mum and dad’s classic (but possibly the label’s worst selling) albums came out.  Love it.

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Some New Music

So far this year there has been some exciting releases by some of my old favorites and a few fun discoveries.  Here is a nice little playlist to sample:

 

 

1.  ELBOW  “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette”  (from The Take Off And Landing Of Everything  2014).  New ELBOW album is wonderful, as can be expected from these guys.  Also a great starting point place if you are not familiar with them.

 

2.  NEIL FINN  “DIzzy Heights”  (from Dizzy Heights  2014).  This is a great version of the title track to the new album, already fun to see how the lush album arrangements are paired down for live performance.  Nothing lost in the smaller arrangement.  Saw him in Boston this month.  What a pro and what a band!

 

3.  ST. VINCENT  “Birth in Reverse”   (from St. Vincent  2014).  This may be my favorite ST. VINCENT album so far.  Perhaps ANNIE CLARK has come to grips with the fact that she is a guitar hero.  I love the choreography in this performance, although the drummer gets off way too easy.

 

4.  BEN WATT  “Hendra”  (from Hendra  2014).  Just out, this is Watt’s first solo album in 30 years.  Of course he has been busy with EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL, his DJ work and releases and penning two books in the interim.  This video is a beautiful version of the title track, featuring the great BERNARD BUTLER, whom I understand is touring with BW.  Almost makes me want a guitar with humbuckers… almost.

 

5.  LIAM FINN   “Snug As Fuck”  (from The Nihilist  2014).  How about “what the fuck?”   I am not sure what this is but I like it.  Happy Jubilancy Day.

 

6.  WARPAINT  “Love Is To Die”  (from Warpaint  2014).  One of my daughter’s favorites.  This is very good.

 

7.  NINA PERSSON  “Dreaming Of Houses”  (from Animal Heart  2014).  Former CARDIGANS songwriter and singer has a new solo album of well crafted pop.  Very clever and very catchy.

 

8.  ROSEANNE CASH “The Sunken Lands”  (from The River and The Thread  2014).  She describes how difficult it must have been to be her grandmother, but I can’t imagine the burden of being the Man in Black’s kid was much easier.   She is one of the most literate and poised songwriters in not just country music but, in all of music.

 

9.  LAURA CANTRELL “Starry Skies”  (from No Way There From Here  2014). With Radio Thrift Shop in hiatus, the Proprietress has crafted an excellent new record. I have seen this new album written about quite a bit and heard her featured on NPR and it’s nice to see her getting noticed in the media.  She is a country music historian whose music is becoming an important part of country music’s history.

 

10. GUY CLARK  “Cornmeal Waltz”  (from My Favorite Picture Of You  2013).  I love the the picture this song brings to mind.  Not that familiar with him, I know him from the periphery.  I know enough to know that this guy is the shit amongst songwriters, and not just Alt Country songwriters either.

 

11.  NEKO CASE  “Night Still Comes”  (from The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You  2013).  Probably should have included in the best of 2013 list but I am not always on the same page as Ms. Case.  But now that I have spent more time with this album, I can easily see its charms.

 

12.  FRANK OCEAN feat. MICK JONES, PAUL SIMONON and DIPLO  “Hero”  (single  2014).   Hey, what about the chorus of kids?  I looked it up and they are the Los Angeles Children’s Choir.  Why no “feat.” for them??

 

13.  DAMON ALBARN  “Everyday Robots”  (from Everyday Robots  2014).  I like the video.  I usually hate videos but this is very interesting and does not distract from the song.

 

14.  TEMPLES  “Shelter Song”  (from Sun Structures  2014).   This is pretty cool.  Sounds like 1968.  These kids either found their parents Nuggets box set or their grandparents old records.

 

15.  JEREMY JAY  “Covered In Ivy”  (from Abandoned Apartments  2013).  I can’t remember how I stumbled across this guy but I just read he used to write film scores.

 

16.  BROKEN BELLS  “Holding On For Life”  (from After the Disco  2014).  JAMES MERCER of THE SHINS and DANGER MOUSE of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse.  Oh wait, that’s Minute Mouse.  His stuff sounds much different.

 

17.  THE RAILS   “Bonnie Portmore”  (from forthcoming album Fair Warning 2014).  THE RAILS are KAMI THOMPSON and JAMES WALBOURNE.  KAMI is RICHARD and LINDA‘s kid and TEDDY‘s sister.  James is a great guitarist, most recently backing up RAY DAVIES, who is no slouch.

 

Follow Blailist on Spotify and you can listen along.  (Spotify did not have LIAM FINN or THE RAILS yet).

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