I usually spend the first few weeks of the new year every year toying with the idea of doing a post about the music of the last year. And I usually end up giving it up because I start to realize some of my favorite albums that I listened to over the year were actually, technically, from the year before and that all these end of the year lists (on sites like emusic and Pitchfork) have a bunch of stuff on them that I haven't had a chance to listen to yet. But this year I'm thinking Why not? I'll just post about some of my favorites from my listening this year regardless of their actual release dates. Part One focuses on artists that were pretty much new to me this year, in no particular order. I tried to find links to online streams of the full album where I could, though I don't know how long those will be available, so listen soon! If I couldn't find that I have a link to the band's site instead where you should at least be able to find some samples of their music.
Breathe Owl Breathe - Magic Central Stream Here
Last time I saw my aunt she was talking about enjoying Breathe Owl Breathe live, and mentioned their campaign over on kickstarter. We have their EP Ghost Glacier, so I wasn't entirely unfamiliar with them, but I really got into them with this album. It appeals to me for the same reasons I am a big fan of Bill Callahan/Smog.
I was convinced by an interview on e-music, the cover art and the title, seemingly very crafty-ish. Also helpful was the suggestion that they were similar to Au Revoir Simone and the fact that they are from Paris, France.
Karaocake - Rows & Stitches Stream Here
When I heard Portland locals Kevin Robinson and Anita Robinson of Viva Voce had a new project, right around the time we moved here, I looked into to it as soon as I could! We saw those two live at least twice when we lived in Seattle and just like their music, they are a lot of fun.
Lykke Li - Youth Novels Website (there is a pop out audio player on the upper right)
I take it this actually came out all the way back in 2008, but I only got around to listening to it last year. Well...I don't have all that long to wait then for the next album from her, which should be coming out this March.
The xx - xx Website (a player at the bottom of the page)
I'm actually not sure there was anything in particular that prompted me to make this one of my emusic downloads other than the fact that it was showing up high in their charts and I liked the previews. It's one of my favorites now though, though technically released in 2009. I guess they won the Mercury prize this year, which as I recall Antony & the Johnsons won right around when I was first hearing their music.
Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here Stream Here
The title comes from a cover of on of Bill Callahan/Smog's songs...and even though the original is also very close to spoken word, something about Heron's presentation makes me think about the meaning differently. But even excluding that track, this album from the Chicago poet/musician is definitely worth several listens.
The Mynabirds - What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood
Website (the music section has a few tracks & videos)
Karen Elson - The Ghost Who Walks Stream Here
These two albums are a little similar in my mind, perhaps a slight vintage feel. On Karen Elson's Album you get the distinct Jack White sound since she's his wife. She does draw in some cabaret influences (she had a cabaret group in NYC) and was much better than I expected.
This is from 2009, but we listened to it a lot early this year. We saw Devandra Banhart for my birthday in 2009 and a few of the songs from this album were performed at that show. And again with the crafty title. I think it got a few extra listens just for that. No, it's a good album, and I like it more because that show was a particularly good one.
Jenny and Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now Website (see LISTEN in the upper left)
I was looking forward to this because I really like Jenny Lewis, but I'm not quite as crazy about it as I hoped I would be. It's alright, but can't help but wishing for more Jenny and less Johnny every time we listen to it.
I've read about some shows she did in Chicago this year, and I heard she's great live, I would like to see here. As I recall there was a comparison of her performance to Grace Jones, David Bowie and a few other really great people. Every photo I see of Janeele Monáe, her style clothing, hair, etc. is just so cool. I'm still enamoured of everything about the video for Tightrope, love the dance moves. But I also really love the fact that her tuxedo pants and black and white shoes remind me of some clothing I had as a kid.
The Living Sisters - Love to Live Website on facebook (a few tracks, scroll down, see left)
3 musicians I already liked: Inara George of The Bird & The Bee, Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and singer Eleni Mandell sing harmony on this album. I have to admit I haven't actually given the album itself a listen yet, but I was quite charmed by their performance on Morning Becomes Eclectic (a program from L.A.'s KCRW which I've been listening to online while I work since 2002.) and I've given it a few listens.
Tomorrow I was planning on posting about some the albums that came out in 2010 from artists I already knew and like quite a bit, but I don't think it will be quite as extensive as this post was! Whew!