Saturday, January 19, 2019

Best Of 2018: Hip Hop, RnB And Reggae


My Top 25 only included one hip hop album, Pusha-T’s majestic Daytona, and no R&B (Natalie Prass notwithstanding!) but that’s probably more of a “It’s not you, it’s me,” scenario as there was plenty of stellar work in the genres throughout 2018. Black Milk’s FEVER demonstrated a new level of lyricism for the master producer and Cardi B.’s Invasion Of Privacy was top notch commercial rap with a sharp New York edge. Speaking of sharp, Telmary’s Cuban fuerza was like a cut diamond, Ghostface Killah’s Brown Album reveled in grimy beats and gritty raps, and Golden Chariots highlighted some exciting up-and-comers.

With Isolation, Kali Uchis delivered a deeply informed - and deeply funky - treatise on R&B and old school rhythm and blues and should have been nominated for at least three Grammys, Best New Artist among them. SIR dropped the subtle and witty November early in the year but it promptly disappeared, even though the TDE Championship Tour found the crooner sharing the stage with label-mates Kendrick Lamar and SZA. Hollie Cook’s Vessel Of Love put some rocksteady reggae in the Top 25 but Sly & Robbie’s collaboration with Dubmatix also echoed seismically. The albums mentioned above are represented at the top of the list with some call-backs to previous posts, followed by an unordered list of other standouts.



Various Artists - Black Panther: The Album Kendrick Lamar masterminded this collection of songs based on Ryan Coogler’s magnificent comic book blockbuster. Given the tear he’s been on for the last few years Lamar can be forgiven if this wasn’t quite the imperial statement I expected. I also imagine that all the money and cooks in the mix when you dabble in Marvel’s “cinematic universe” may be some of the cause behind some of the album feeling smoothed out and sluggish. Even so, it’s damned good, and if it’s the one hip hop album some parts of the film’s audience are exposed to, they’re getting a fair representation of the current approach to the idiom. The inclusion of some young African artists added intrigue and the the songs with SZA (All Of The Stars) and Anderson .Paak (Bloody Waters) fully lived up to all the promise. Also worth checking out is Black Panther: Original Score by Ludwig Göransson, which combined sweeping strings with trap rhythms, the voice of the legendary Baaba Maal and sounds sampled from an archive of African music. Fascinating stuff and actually edgier than Lamar's compilation. 

Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts Long after Kanye West's MAGA BS has died down and the holes he’s shot in his feet have healed over, we will still have to consider the run of five short albums he pumped out last spring. It’s almost universally agreed that Daytona was the strongest of all and his own ‘Ye the weakest (and the worst of his career), leaving the other three to jockey for position in the middle. For my money, while some of the songs on Nas’ Nasir hit home, they were too often sunk by the rapper’s poorly thought out rhymes. Teyana Taylor’s KTSE had some sweet jams but I was never totally convinced by her embrace of graphic sexuality on a few of them. She could take a few lessons on such things from Kali Uchis!

That leaves this collaboration between West and Kid Cudi, an artist who impressed me years ago with Night And Day before seeming to slide into Drake and Weeknd-style solipsism. Not here - both artists kick each other in high gear, with West injecting some spacious post-punk, dubbed out nihilism into his tracks and Cudi singing well and with emotional conviction. West’s raps hearken back to an earlier time, before he seemed intent on pissing everyone off. In short, it’s a solid album that delivers a few welcome surprises. If not for West’s red hat and the muddled thinking going on beneath it, Kids See Ghosts would likely have had a broader impact. 

Noname - Room 25 Coming out of the same rich Chicago scene as Chance The Rapper, Noname has been honing her style for the last few years. Room 25, her second album, finds her at her best, with her conversational, poetic flow swathed in lush, jazzy surroundings courtesy producer Phoelix. Listening to Noname (real name: Fatimah Warner) grow up in public should continue to be one of the most compelling facets of hip hop for a long time to come. 

Mick Jenkins - Pieces Of A Man Jenkins, another Chicago rapper on a mission, announces his ambition by cribbing a title from one of Gil Scott-Heron's classics. This album is a deep and rich display of his talents, giving us some "free thought" on many subjects, including a "red-hot case of dot-dot-did-it-dot-dot-dash, the re-morse code, the damned if I know..." or what GSH called the "Ghetto Code." Of specific concern is that "there are more and more things black people thought they had a handle on that they sorta seen slowly slip away from them." Those musings come in a track called Heron Flow, but don't worry that Jenkins is trying to be someone he ain't - this is a thoroughly contemporary hip hop album, which honors his hero's independent streak way more than if he tried to imitate him. Giving gritty voice to our moment, Jenkins earns the right to use that title over the course of the album, which is certainly not something you can say about other people biting titles of great albums (yes, Yo La Tengo, I'm looking at you). Keep your eye on Jenkins - his third album is bound to be a corker if he continues on this hot streak.


Saba - Care For Me This album has an uneven beginning, but by the time you get to Calligraphy, the third track, you will be convinced of Saba's abilities, especially the way he can inject furious emotion into his songs while still remaining in control. The heart of the album lies in its penultimate song, Prom / King, in which Saba confronts the murder of his cousin. It's an extraordinary use of hip hop as memoir and nearly singlehandedly reimagines the power and possibility of the music. But while I can't help but be thrilled by everything Chicago is giving us musically, it's more than a damned shame that so much of it is rooted in pain and tragedy. Here's to brighter days for Saba and all in the Windy City.

pinkcaravan! - 2002 Setting her childlike musing and reminiscing within a candy-coated laptop-generated universe makes every pinkcaravan! release a delight. It’s all sweet, so she also wisely keeps things short, leaving you wanting more rather than running off to the dentist. 

Anderson .Paak - Oxnard Malibu, Paak's last album was a joyful explosion of killer grooves (often with him behind the drum kit) and ultra-confident rapping and singing about growing up in L.A.'s environs. Oxnard continues the formula, with results that are nearly as good except for some muddled lyrical moments. The guy is massively talented but might want to take some more time writing his next batch of songs.


Mad Professor - Electro Dubclubbing!! This massive slab of sound proves yet again that, in the 21st Century, nobody dubs it better than this Guyanese-born British producer and vocalist. The rhythm sections are tighter than the clampdown and the chord changes and melodies are enough to inspire - or resolve - many emotions. Translation: this album will make you feel fantastic.

Various Artists - Snoop Dogg Presents Bible Of Love All rise: the "Rev." Calvin Broadus (AKA Snoop Dogg) has assembled a classy, splashy contemporary gospel collection, lavishly populated by some of the finest singers around, both sanctified (Rance Allen, Kim Burrell, Marvin Sapp, etc.) and secular (Charlie Wilson, Patti Labelle, Faith Evans, etc.). It's also a showcase for the family of Snoop's co-Executive Producer Lonny Bereal with no fewer than ten people bearing that surname involved in the project. Special note should be made of the contributions of Michael Lawrence Bereal who provides crucial support on bass, keyboards, tambourine and strings. At over two hours, it's certainly too long but the good stuff is as good as the good book deserves. Hallelujah!

Various Artists - Everything Is Recorded By Richard Russell On this eclectic collection by the head of XL Recordings (which releases everyone from Adele to Thom Yorke), he brings together some of his less-established signings like Sampha (whose excellent Process was my #8 album of 2017), the French-Cuban duo Ibeyi, British rapper Giggs, a singer named Infinite (also the son of Ghostface Killah) for mostly powerful night visions. Ghosts in the machine include Curtis Mayfield, Keith Hudson, Grace Jones, Peter Gabriel and Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. But even if all these names mean nothing to you, I can fairly well guarantee EIRBRR is going to give you something you can't get elsewhere. Standouts include Wet Looking Road with a supremely confident Giggs ("I ain't never going to need that click!") interacting with a glistening Hudson sample, Mountains Of Gold, which finds Sampha, Ibeyi and another rapper, Wiki, making hay over Jones' Nightclubbing, and Bloodshot Red Eyes, an intimate slice of starlit R&B with Infinite receiving subtle accompaniment from Gartside. Russell has the curator's knack - I wonder what he'll put together next time.

Chloe X Halle - The Kids Are Alright When I reviewed their 2017 mixtape/EP, The Two Of Us, I concluded by saying, "Reading around the web, I get the idea that Beyoncé fans are waiting for something bigger from these teenagers. I hope they maintain their delicate but intense minimalism, poetic lyrics, and vocal restraint, without falling into radio-ready convention." I'm happy to report that the Bailey sister are mostly sticking to their guns, layering their preternatural harmonies over spare tracks of synths and programmed drums. I never would have expected them to become go-to providers of theme songs for movies and TV, but the inclusion of Grown (from Blackish) and Warrior (from A Wrinkle In Time) doesn't interrupt the hypnotic flow of the album. Thank goodness their song from Trolls was left off! The soundtrack work can have the effect of making their lyrics a bit too general, so it's welcome that songs like Fake (with a feature by Kari Faux) and Down come from a more personal place. Considering they're both under 20, they still have a lot of living - and singing - to do, and I couldn't be happier following along.

Stimulator Jones - Exotic Worlds And Masterful Treasures Multi-instrumentalist Sam Lunsford has elbowed his way into the tuneful and retro-styled club populated by Remy Shand and Meyer Hawthorne, although he's odder than both of them. His colorful, mostly electronic R&B has hints of the 70's and 80's but also sounds slightly otherworldly, as though something was both lost and gained in translation. I discovered him on Sofie's SOS Tape - if you missed that tip, plug in here.

Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs That title strikes me as ironic as this short (15 songs in 24 minutes) album seems to celebrate the producer's art more than the rapper's. But since Sweatshirt (real name: Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, AKA randomblackdude) has his hands all over the sonics, I now have a new appreciation for his skills. Having so many short songs gives it the feeling of a collage (he considered releasing it as a continuous track) and it really is a fascinating conglomeration of murky sounds, with the voices, his and those of a few guests, just more textures from which occasionally arresting images arise: "We cellophane your story so it stays/Since birth mama raised and burped me, I ain't changed/I'm a man, I'm just saying that I stayed imperfect" (from Veins). I've often had my problems with the offshoots of the OddFuture collective (except Frank Ocean) but I seem to be finding more to love in Sweatshirt's imperfections. That could mean he has changed - or maybe I have.

MIKE - War In My Pen This intriguing character is one of Earl Sweatshirt’s main collaborators on the above album and this murky collection underscores how he might have contributed. However the lines of inspiration run, this is a feast of tightly edited electronics, fragmented sonics and MIKE’s slurred vocals. Like the Sweatshirt record, listening to it in one sitting (not hard, it’s under 30 minutes) is the way to go, rather than focusing on individual tracks. Both records make a strong case that the future of hip hop will sound something like them. Whether what follows is as artful, however, remains to be heard. 

Cypress Hill - Elephants On Acid The title is an accurate description of the marauding stomp of the beat-driven tracks on this, a remarkable return to near-form for a group a quarter century from their debut. DJ Muggs is the true star on this brawny slab, assembling narcotic grooves for B-Real and Sen Dog to spit their stoner tales over. While some of the experiments fail, there’s more than enough meat here for a mighty meal. 

Parliament - Medicaid Fraud Dogg Bad cover art and a digital-only release (CD is coming later this month) did not promise much for this overloaded album, the first under the Parliament name since 1980’s Trombipulation. But George Clinton is an atomic dog who never seems to entirely run out of tricks and the fact that so much of this is not only funky as hell but also memorable is quite an achievement. Even the most low-key tracks make you realize that not only have few people succeeded at reconciling funk with modern R&B and hip hop, not that many people have even tried. And for every song that has you marveling at the durability of the Parliament groove, there is another that takes you to a new place entirely, like the slinky, haunting Backwoods, which really shows off the vocal talents of Tracey Lewis-Clinton, George's son. Lewis-Clinton has been perfecting this sort of thing since the 90's (sometimes under the name Trey Lewd) and is a big presence on this album as a writer, producer and vocalist. Other members of the Parliament family are here, too, such as Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis and Gary "Mudbone" Cooper, which is a comfort when the "in memoriam" list (including Cordell "Boogie" Mosson, Garry Shider, Bernie Worrell and others) is so long. With our nation seeming less groovy all the time, praise and gloryhallastoopid to Clinton & Co. for reminding us that Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk may win a battle or two but he will never win the war!

Push play on the mix, which includes a song from all of these in an order suitable for your next rent party. You can also dig deeper into the year's releases in AnEarful: 2018 Archive (Hip Hop, R&B And Reggae). Did I miss something? P.S. Keep up with this year's output here.



You may also enjoy:
Best Of 2017: Hip Hop, R&B And Reggae
Best Of 2016: Hip Hop And R&B
A Vacation In Hip Hop Nation
Best Of 15: Hip Hop
Best Of The Rest Of 14: Hip Hop And Jazz

Monday, January 07, 2019

Best Of 2018: Electronic


The music I put in this category is not always primarily synthetic or computer-driven yet evinces a certain artistic stance that makes it fit. My Top 25 included three albums along these lines: You Were Never Really Here by Jonny Greenwood, Zebra by Arp, and Quilt Jams by Elsa Hewitt, but there were quite a number of other excellent releases that kept me coming back for more. Find out about them in this unordered list, starting with some I covered in a post early in the fall.

Record Roundup: Electronic Excursions
Good Luck In Death - They Promised Us A Bright Future, We Were Content With An Obscure Past
I-VT - BLOC
Novelty Daughter - Cocoon Year

Various Artists - S&S Presents: Dreams Intrigued by the gorgeous packaging and the promise of an unheard track by Mutual Benefit, I picked this up at their concert at Park Church Co-Op last month. What I ended up with was entree into another world. Although I was familiar with many of the artists (Sea Oleena, Julie Byrne, Kaitlyn Aurelia Amith, etc.) the compilers, who run a blog called Stadiums & Shrines, had not crossed my radar before. Based on their series Dreams, for which they commissioned favorite artists to step slightly outside of their lanes and compose ambient tracks inspired by collages created by S&S co-founder Nathaniel Whitcomb from images clipped from one vintage travel book, they know what they're doing. As expected, Bali, the Mutual Benefit song, is a standout, a pure distillation of their current approach into instrumental form - but there is no filler on Dreams. Stream the album and you will find yourself sinking slowly into a transporting continuous experience - but if you buy it on vinyl or digital you can also lose yourself in those wonderful collages along with writings by Dave Sutton and Matthew Sage. Now leave me alone as I have to catch up on a decade of Stadiums & Shrines!

Enofa - Arboretum Displaying a command of structure not so common in this genre, Ross Baker’s 42-minute suite masterfully blends electronic and acoustic instruments with field recordings for a cinematic journey in sound. His album Melkur, which came out late in the year, finds him bringing the same approach to shorter pieces, mostly with success. Another release, the 15-hour compilation 2T: Experimental Works 1995-2017, explains why he’s so good - he’s put in the work for decades.

Masayoshi Fujita - Book Of Life Composer and virtuoso vibraphonist Fujita has a way of creating sound images that feel as natural as breathing. The use of nouns related to nature and weather (fog, snow, clouds and mist all make appearances) in the song titles is perfect for the atmosphere that will be created while you play this lovely music. There's also sense of melancholy and exploration, which keeps things from becoming too precious.

Laraaji/Arji OceAnanda/Dallas Acid - Arrive Without Leaving Just when we needed him, the man born Edward Gordon has been having a major moment for the last couple of years, from reissues and remixes to concert appearances and now this album. A collaboration with OceAnanda, his longtime partner in leading meditation workshops, and a synth trio from Texas, this album finds his trademark autoharp combining perfectly with they synths and OceAnanda’s mbira to create swirling clouds of sound that warm your heart and soothe your mind. All these years later, you can still hear the beauty and humanity that stopped Brian Eno in his tracks on a New York street corner before he invited Laraaji into the studio to create Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance.

Tim Hecker - Konoyo Almost a decade ago, Hecker corralled my consciousness (and that of many others) with Ravedeath 1972, but nothing really grabbed me since then. Until Konoyo, that is, which puts his supremely beautiful textural combinations on full display in a seven-song suite that is not so much cinematic as novelistic, with certain sounds almost becoming characters to be followed as you listen. The emotions here - wistfulness, sorrow, acceptance - are deep and deeply nuanced. It would be easy to assume Hecker is running on some kind of extraordinary series of instincts in putting this stuff together, but more likely there's a load of craft and experimentation behind it all. Either way, the end result feels completely inevitable without a hint of contrivance.

Rival Consoles - Persona Compared with Tim Hecker and some of the other items on this list, this project of Ryan Lee West's almost seems to be delivering pop songs, although of a brooding and moody variety. Take the title track, which uses a subdued dance beat to push sweeping chords through time and space, with a central hook that echoes in my mind for days. 

Nils Frahm - All Melody The vinyl package of this is so fantastic that it took me a while to reconcile it with how wildly uneven the album is. The first two tracks, for example, are almost completely forgettable, but then we get magic like A Place, My Friend The Forest and Harm Hymn. If he could have kept the quality at that level, it would have been extraordinary. The duff songs are more than made up for by an accompanying EP called Encores 1, which is all top notch stuff. Sometimes even someone as talented as Frahm might not know what his best work sounds like.

Kuuma - Level This is another collage-like blast from the mind of Adam Cuthbért (I-VT - see above, slashsound,etc.), this time purporting to the "the origin story of Kuuma, a databorne algorithm," which is fun to think about while you listen. Get the picture here - or just listen and let your imagination write your own story.

Viberous - Splintered This queasy and claustrophobic trip into sonic degradation was introduced to me by Cuthbért, who remixed the last song, Nettle, and could be seen as of a piece with Kuuma and I-VT. Do I sense a movement? Sign me up!

Ian William Craig - Thresholder Speaking of sonic degradation, no one does the "machines breaking down with film burning in the projector accompanied by Gregorian chant" like this classically trained singer, songwriter and producer. Of course, he's been doing his thing since at least 2014 when he released the stunning A Turn Of Breath. This album finds him in top form, so if you're still unfamiliar feel free to start here.

Frederic D. Oberland - Labyrinth In addition running Nahal Recordings, who released the epic Good Luck In Death album mentioned above, and his work as a photographer, Oberland is also a producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. Labyrinth is his second album and manages to somehow be both pitch black and optimistic. With inspiration coming from Dante and the "anguish and ecstasy" of George Bataille's Inner Experience, I suppose that's to be expected!

E Ruscha V - Who Are You There is also optimism to be found here, in the latest work by Ruscha who has a large collection of vintage gear and knows how to use it. Ruscha knows how to have fun, too, such as on the title track, which would be the perfect accompaniment to an underwater robot ballet. Some of the delight to be found here may have a genetic origin, as Ruscha is the son of one of my favorite artists, Ed Ruscha. Book a flight on Guacamole Airlines if you need to know more.

Narducci - Break The Silence Matthew Silberman, who made one of the best jazz albums of the decade a few years ago, is the main man behind Narducci and one of these days I need to ask him why that name? But for now, I'm too busy being fascinated by all the ideas behind the four tracks on this EP, which feature electronics, sax, vocals and even a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. There is enough ambition here, and (dare I say) spirituality that listening is a deeply involving experience. Sometimes I play it on repeat, which is a sure sign that I want more.

Saariselka - Ceres I've been waiting for something new from Marielle V. Jakobsons ever since Star Core came out in 2016 and just recently became aware of this shimmering collaboration between her and Chuck Johnson, a pedal steel player. The combination of his treated guitar with her Fender Rhodes and other keyboards is just sublime. If another year must go by without a follow up to Star Core, additional music like this would make the passing of time completely painless.  

Elizabeth Joan Kelly - Music For The DMV Isn't it funny that most of the artistic children of Brian Eno's Ambient 1: Music For Airports are for much less mundane uses (meditation, primarily) than visiting a transportation hub? Kelly, a composer from New Orleans, has taken her inspiration in the opposite direction, to a destination even more reviled than JFK or LGA: the Department of Motor Vehicles. While one would think that relaxing sounds would be the best thing to help survive another license renewal, Kelly uses a variety of shiny textures and bright melodies to instead provide distraction. And there's plenty of that to be found here, as well as charm, especially in the three tracks classed as Gymnopedies. Best of all, however, is Call My Number, which has an almost comical sense of yearning and absolutely reminds me of that time when the scheduling system crashed at the DMV and I lost my place in line.

Brian Eno - Music For Installations There are few artists who loom larger in the field of electronic music than Eno and even fewer that could credibly release something like this five hour behemoth of a set. Stretching back as far as 1985, the set collect nearly everything Eno created for his installation work or other visual projects like 77 Million Paintings, which combined software and sound art. The penultimate "disc" is called Making Spaces and was originally sold at installations. Featuring short pieces, including a beauteous number for guitar called New Moon, it showcases a different side of the artist, closer to the concision of Music For Films Volume II than the rest of the set. There are also four tracks for "future installations," which qualifies as a new Eno album of gleaming subtlety and proves once again that nobody does it better. 

Find tracks from all these releases, except Cocoon Year and Splintered, in this playlist or below. Want more? Check out the Archive, which has several additional hours of electronic intrigue to explore! What did I miss?



You may also enjoy:
Best of 2018: The Top 25
Best of 2018: Classical 
Best of 2017: Electronic
Best of 2016: Electronic

Monday, December 31, 2018

Best Of 2018: Classical


The fecundity of the contemporary classical scene continues to fill me with amazement - and gratitude. Hundreds of hours during my 2018 have been enhanced by the pioneering spirit of the composers, performers and labels who continue to inject streams of inventive sounds into an already rich river of music. My Top 25 included six of the best new music recordings, but barely scratched the surface of all the great albums that came out in the last 12 months. I will highlight some others that thrilled me this year, including a few new releases featuring old music that rose above the clamor, starting with those I already covered in previous posts.

Record Roundup: One Day In 2018

Johnny Gandelsman - J.S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Violin
Matteo Liberatore - Solos
Maya Baiser - The Day

Words + Music, Part 1: Laurie Anderson And Kronos Quartet

Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet - Landfall

Record Roundup: Electro-Acoustic Explorations

Clarice Jensen - For This From That Will Be Filled
Tania Chen - John Cage: Electronic Music For Piano

Best Of 2018 (So Far)

Wang Lu - Urban Inventory

Record Roundup: Avant Chamber and Orchestral

Duo Noire - Night Triptych
Joshua Modney - Engage
Seattle Symphony - Berio-Boulez-Ravel

Three Portraits: Cheung-Trapani-Du Yun

Anthony Cheung - Cycles And Arrows

Focus On Contemporary Classical

Nordic Affect - He(a)r
Lorelei Ensemble - Impermanence
Notus - Of Radiance And Refraction
The Crossing - Zealot Canticles
John Lane - Peter Garland: The Landscape Scrolls
Ken Thomson - Sextet
FLUX Quartet - Michael Hersch: Images From A Closed Ward

Piano Promenade
Whether solo and all-natural or treated and limned with electronics, the piano was at the center of dozens of notable recordings. These caught my attention.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard - Messiaen: Catalogue d'Oiseaux The 20th Century master's magnum opus of birdsong for 88 keys receives a gorgeous - a likely definitive - treatment from Aimard. If this is a Messiaen mountain you've been waiting to climb, let Aimard be your guide.

Igor Levit - Life It's wonderful to see this supremely talented pianist broadening his palate well beyond often recorded works by Bach and Beethoven. Here he blends Busoni and Liszt transcriptions of Bach and Wagner with Schumann's last work and pieces by Frederic Rzewski and Bill Evans for his most personal collection to date.

Lubomyr Melnyk - The Dreamers Ever Leave You and Fallen Trees Combining Melnyk's ecstatic and romantic approach to minimalism with ballet was a brilliant stroke and even without seeing the movement, Melnyk's inspiration feels very immediate. Fallen Trees is more of a group effort, with several of Melnyk's label-mates from Erased Tapes taking part - but his immersive vision is at the forefront.

Dmitri Evgrafov - Return Following on from his stunning and immersive Comprehension Of Light, Evgrafov narrows his focus on this EP, putting his melancholy piano in the foreground and proving that a limited palate hardly tones down his epic tendencies.

Tigran Hamasyan - For Gyumri This Armenian pianist is usually sorted with jazz, but his meditative pieces, especially on this EP, rub shoulders more naturally with the keyboard vanguard in this category. Put another way, when I want to listen to jazz piano I don't reach for Hamasyan, but if I've already listened to Melnyk or Evgrafov and want to keep the mood going I will.

Hauschka - Adrift and Patrick Melrose A contemporary savant of the prepared piano, Hauschka embarrassed us with many riches in the realm of soundtracks. These two are just the ones that stood out for me, with the first capturing the external loneliness of the open sea and the second exposing the contours of a different kind of loneliness, that of the acerbic character created by Edward St. Aubyn and played to a T by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Kelly Moran - Ultraviolet Moran also uses prepared piano to execute her sonic paintings, but I see her as more of a synthesist than Hauschka, which is why it makes perfect sense to see her working with Daniel Lopatin (who releases powerful electronic soundscapes as Oneohtrix Point Never) on this lush and sparkling collection.

Vicky Chow - Michael Gordon: Sonatra The great pianist from Bang On A Can demonstrates that nothing but a piano - and the wicked imagination of Michael Gordon - is required to create a musical brain teaser. M.C. Escher would be jealous of the way the repeating arpeggios seem to fold into themselves in an endless series.

Chamber Constellations
Perhaps due to economic factors, some of the most exciting and innovative new music is being written for solo instruments and small ensembles. Proof yet again that size doesn't matter!

JACK Quartet - John Luther Adams: Everything That Rises I admit to somewhat blanking out when terms like "just intonation" and "harmonic clouds" are thrown around, but one listen to this landmark, hour-long string quartet (the composer's fourth) will shut down anything cerebral for a glassy and fascinating journey into the heart of these instruments. The JACK's concentration is astonishing.

Aizuri Quartet - Blueprinting Since 2012, the Aizuri has been receiving constant acclaim for its performances but only just this fall put out its first album - and it's a doozy! Including five world-premiere recordings of works by Gabrielle Smith, Caroline Shaw, Yevgeniy Sharlat, Lembit Beecher and Paul Wiancko, Blueprinting evinces a complete unity of purpose amongst the four players in both their playing and artistic vision. While they push the envelope sonically, with percussive effects and Beecher's "sound sculptures," this is an easy album to love from the first listen.

Francis Macdonald - Hamilton Mausoleum Suite That the combination of string quartet and harp recorded in an especially resonant space (the titular mausoleum, which is in Lanarkshire, Scotland and once housed the remains of Alexander, the tenth duke of Hamilton) made for a lovely and transporting listen should come as a surprise to no one. That composer Macdonald is also the drummer in Teenage Fanclub, a band whose own fan club always seemed to overstate their importance, was certainly a surprise to me. Who knows what other amazing talents occupy the backline of other Scottish indie rock bands?

Wet Ink Ensemble - Wet Ink: 20 Even two decades in, this all-star group still plays cutting edge music as if the ink is still drying on the score. This collection, with works by Artistic Directors Alex Mincek, Sam Pluta, Kate Soper and Eric Wubbels among others, celebrates that legacy with style.

Trey Pollard - Antiphone The in-house arranger for Spacebomb, whose work has graced some of my favorite albums in recent years, is given his head as a composer and reveals a gift for pared down chamber pieces with a bit of drama and no lack of sparkle.

Jennifer Koh - Saariaho X Koh I knew this album was inevitable after hearing Koh's commanding performance of a solo violin piece by Kaija Saariaho at the Hotel Elefant fifth anniversary benefit two years ago - but the results far exceeded my expectations. Not only does Koh have an affinity for Saariaho's sound world, but the Finnish composer's work for strings is deeply affecting and involving. The world premiere recording of the cinematic Light And Shadow for violin, cello and piano is worth the price of admission but all the pieces are riveting.

The Hands Free This debut album by an ensemble comprised of James Moore (guitar/banjo), Caroline Shaw (violin), Nathan Koci (accordion) and Eleonore Oppenheim (bass) shows that supergroups can work as all are well known for their work in groups like Roomful of Teeth, Victoire and Dither. It also makes sense musically as the unusual combination of instruments seems to mesh perfectly with their musical vision. Lovely Jenny, which wears its folk roots on its sleeve, is an especially effective song but the whole album intrigues and satisfies in equal measure. Let's hope they find time in their busy schedule to make another one of these!

Marianne Gythfeldt - Only Human A clarinetist with the Talea Ensemble and other collectives, Gythfeldt steps out on her own with this stunning (and stunningly recorded - every pop, click and breath is perfectly captured) collection of commissioned electro-acoustic works. The composers - John Link, Mikel Kuehn, David Taddie, Elizabeth Hoffman, Eric Lyon and Robert Morris - are all unknown to me, which puts the album in the class of public service for raising their profiles. Gythfeldt is setting a new standard for her instrument here.

Transient Canvas - Wired The unusual duo of Amy Advocat's bass clarinet and Matt Sharrock's marimba comes into clearer focus on their second album. Works by Kirsten Volness and Dan Van Hassel bookend the record, effectively containing the variety within, which traverses the melodic and meditative to something approaching musique concrète.

Tigue - Strange Paradise Composers and percussionists Matt Evans, Amy Garapic and Carson Moody have assembled their most lapidary offering yet as Tigue, with three long tracks making epic - and even occasionally groovy - paintings for your ears. Post-rock aficionados looking to further broaden their horizons should get with Tigue stat.

Vocalizations
The human voice, that most elemental of instruments, was well represented this year, especially in choral albums like those mentioned above and below.

Skylark Vocal Ensemble - Seven Words from the Cross One of my favorite things about this group, who were responsible for the remarkable Crossing Over, is their desire to use words and music to communicate. Sounds obvious, I know, but it's not always the case with choral music. Here the run the gamut, from William Billings and American traditional songs like Amazing Grace to Hildegard von Bingen and Anna Thorvaldsdottir, to take us on a dignified and moving journey through Christ's final statements from Golgotha. Through this kaleidoscopic selection, they manage to create a newly relevant impression of those canonical words. Like Christ's teachings themselves, these beautiful melodies need not remain in a house of worship. Play them in your house and find wonder wherever you are.

The Crossing - If There Were Water If this technically adept choir, led by Donald Nally had only released Zealot Chronicles (see above) this year, it would have been a distinguished year for them. But they also put out this dark and challenging album, which pairs two works about diaspora and displacement, stretching across centuries and continents. Greek composer Stratis Minakakais contributes Crossings Cycle, which addresses the tragedy of Syrian refugees, while Gregory W. Brown's un/body/ing addresses the removal of native Americans from western Massachusetts - and then a later eviction of European settlers, pushed out to build a reservoir. Between this and Zealot Chronicles, The Crossing is rapidly becoming a CNN for choral America.

Barbara Hannigan - Vienna: Fin de Siècle One of the finest singers of art songs takes on the birth of modernism as it arose out of late romanticism in Vienna. So we have cycles by Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Zemlinsky, Alma Mahler and Hugo Wolf, beautifully sung and sensitively accompanied by Reinbert de Leeuw on piano. What more could you ask for?

Christian Gerhaher - Schumann: Frage Somehow the incredible series of albums by baritone Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber passed me by - maybe because many of them weren't released in the U.S. This, the first in a new series taking on all of Schumann's lieder, proves Gerhaher is a singer for the ages and that Huber is the perfect accompanist. This album is an instant classic and would not sound out of place among the great Deutsche Grammophon recordings of the 50's and 60's. Is there a subscription service so I don't miss anything else from these two?

Dmitri Tymoczko - Fools And Angels Given that prog rock is respectable now it was only natural for composers to start reverse engineering it for the concert hall. While Tymoczko seems to lean more toward Gentle Giant than my beloved King Crimson in his listening habits, this collection is a wild ride of outré harmonies and adventurous textures. He also makes a convincing stab at a Scott Johnson-like approach to field recordings in Let The Bodies Hit The Floor, which uses audio from This American Life.

Living Large
Even given what I said above, there are still many new works - and old works discovered - for larger forces. Here are three of the best. 

Michael Hersch - End Stages and Violin Concerto With Images From A Closed Ward immediately establishing Hersch as a striking architect of darkness for string quartet, this album shows that he can think big as well. The Concerto is a gnarly and gripping piece, with a performance by violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the International Contemporary Ensemble that will be hard to better. End Stages is featured in a live performance by the legendary Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and finds them delivering the eight short movements with authority, letting the emotionally probing writing shine. I have a feeling there will be more impressive work to come from Hersch.

Florence Price: Violin Concertos Inclusion is paramount on all sides of the concert stage and part of the road to parity is righting wrongs of the past - which is why the rediscovery of these major works by Price, an African-American woman who died in 1953, is so welcome. Albany Records, which has been championing American music for decades, is the perfect label to release Price's music, allowing her to enter the catalog alongside her peers. And this recording, with the violin of Er-Gene Kahng and the Janacek Philharmonic conducted by Ryan Cockerham, makes a more than persuasive case for these sweeping, tuneful pieces. They should be performed often, perhaps paired with a work by Dvorak, who reliably packs concert halls and famously remarked, "The future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States."

Daniel Bjarnason - Collider As demonstrated on last year's Recurrence, also performed by the excellent Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Bjarnason is a master of mood expressed in orchestral form. Could these pieces work as electronic soundscapes? Certainly - but the combination of his synthetic sensibility with the organic, analog sounds of the symphony is sublime. His soundtrack to Under The Tree, a 2017 Icelandic film nominated for an Oscar, was also released this year and is more than worthy of investigation.

Find selections from most of these albums (save Aizuri Quartet and The Hands Free) in this playlist or below. You may also find something to love in the Of Note In 2018 (Classical) playlist, which is a wider selection of what came out this year. Finally, I've collected many of the Grammy nominees in the Classical category here.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Best Of 2018: The Top 25


Another year is coming to a close. In the light of the daily outrages on the geo-political stage, I am likely not the only one more fervently seeking solace and acknowledgement in music. Thankfully, some of our finest artists met that need with incredible records in 2018. What follows are the 25 that not only rose to every standard of excellence but engaged me on a deeper level, bonding to my very soul. Is that too high-falutin’ a sentiment for you? What else do you expect from AnEarful?

1. Holly Miranda - Mutual Horse Not only is Miranda’s third album a beautiful work of art, it’s also an act of giving - to her listeners, to her family, and to herself. 

2. Jonathan Wilson - Rare Birds On his third album proper, Wilson took more chances musically, lyrically and production-wise. What hasn’t changed is his wide-eyed sincerity and optimism. Some parts of the hippie ideal were worth preserving, after all, especially if the music sounds this incredible.  

3. Pusha T - Daytona It was a mad year for Kanye West fans but at least we got this one classic album out it, along with parts of Kids See Ghosts and Teyana Taylor’s album. Pusha T’s "luxury street rap" never sounded more incised in stone and some of the lyrics even allow for hints of self-reflection. As the man says, If You Know You Know

4. Olivia De Prato - Streya Stop with the Bach. This is how you make a 21st Century violin record. 

5. Natalie Prass - The Future and the Past Matthew E. White and the Spacebomb house band stretch themselves to realize Prass’s booty-shaking R&B visions. The results are sharp as a tack, with pinpoint rhythms and hooks galore. Prass delivers the songwriting goods as well, managing to always stay tuneful and positive while also letting you know that she’s very aware of all the social and political situations that are keeping us off kilter - and the vicissitudes of romance that can have the same effect. 

6. Andy Jenkins - Sweet Bunch Speaking of Spacebomb, this masterclass in songwriting by Jenkins receives the absolutely perfect sound from White, with swampy guitars, a small choir singing backup on some songs and the typically excellent rhythm work by Spacebomb house-band members Cameron Ralston (bass) and Pinson Chanselle (drums). Jenkins’s slightly rueful yet wise persona finds apt expression in his Nilsson-esque voice and all the elements add up to an addictive delight. 

7. Hollie Cook - Vessel Of Love Switching to Youth as producer and including Jah Wobble (PiL) and Keith Levene (The Clash, PiL) among the players leads to what I call post-punk’s reggae revenge - and revenge never sounded so sweet

8. Jonny Greenwood - Phantom Thread and You Were Never Really Here Another annus mirabilis for fans of the Radiohead guitarist’s film music as he showed off two of his sides: darkly romantic in the score to the Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece (four words I’ve never put together before) and just dark in the soundscapes for the disappointing Joaquin Phoenix (also not a common phrase!) feature. I have high hopes that Greenwood scores an Oscar this time around. See the movies or don’t - but listen no matter what. 

9. Christopher Trapani - Waterlines I called the title piece, written in the Katrina aftermath and based on old blues and country classics, an instant classic when I heard it performed by Lucy Dhegrae and the Talea Ensemble, the same forces who grace this recording. The other pieces are also excellent, risky and fascinating. 

10. Palm - Rock Island The first of three debut albums by bands with one word names on my list, Palm’s tricky time signatures, glossy textures and bright melodies keep me in a suspended state of sparkle while I listen. Live, their jams are weightier, which wasn’t a bad thing at all. 

11. Anna Thorvaldsdottir - Aequa This new portrait album of the Icelandic composer’s work, performed with authority by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), is yet another showcase of her wondrous work. Thorvaldsdottir is significant because her compositional scaffolding is among the strongest of anyone writing today, but her interest in recorded sound elevates her work into an almost tactile experience. From the first notes of Scape, a solo work for prepared piano (played by Cory Smyth), you can't help but be drawn into her vivid musical imagination. Long may she reign!

12. Shame - Songs Of Praise My love of angular post-punk rock is strong enough that I can overlook some of the familiarity I feel when listening to this young band. Also, the unity of their attack and sense of conviction about what they’re doing make for a killer album. Sky’s the limit, boys!

13. Du Yun - Dinosaur Scar The only recent Pulitzer Prize winner who’s even more of a badass than Kendrick Lamar, Du Yun manages to harness her big ideas into concise nuggets of passionate information. As she said at a recent concert“Through music I always want to tell stories about human relationships,” so the results are far from abstraction. It’ll be a while before we all catch with her, but this album, persuasively performed by ICE (do they ever sleep??) closes that distance by some measure. 

14. Mutual Benefit - Thunder Follows The Light Listening to Jordan Lee, the one constant member of Mutual Benefit, follow his muse and develop his songwriting into its current hymn-like state has been a central pleasure of our young century. Horns and strings, and almost no drums, push this gorgeous album further toward pastoral chamber pop and I will follow Lee as far as he wants to go down that road. 

15. Anna St. Louis - If Only There Was A River This enigmatic singer somehow manages to sound both completely contemporary and as if she’s been with us forever. Exquisitely sensitive production and stunning songwriting make this one for the ages. 

16. Scott Johnson - Mind Out Of Matter Only Johnson, the master of orchestrated speech, could turn a lecture about religion and evolution into a piece compelling enough for repeated listening. And only Alarm Will Sound (still missing Matt Marks...) could play this complex score with such tossed-off assurance

17. Bodega - Endless Scroll I caught these wise and witty art-punk pranksters on one of New Sounds’ Facebook Live performances and was immediately captivated by their energy. Sometimes I laugh out loud at a lyric on the subway. Instead of giving me side-eye, just get the album!

18. Arp - Zebra Lush, cinematic, jazz-and-electronics-infused atmospheres for dreaming. By pulling in more influences but caring less about treating them with kid gloves, Alexis Georgopoulos, has made his most distinctive record yet.

19. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino Alex Turner’s mind map of the titular structure provided him a means of escape from the cul de sac AM found themselves in after their last album. What was next - louder and heavier? Why? This was a brave direction to take - and one they executed to perfection. Book a room and see if you agree it’s even better than “four stars out of five.”

20. Elsa Hewitt - Quilt Jams As I said in the latest issue of Off Your Radar when I included one of Hewitt’s electronic fantasias on my mixtape: “With or without vocals, each track feels like a psychic transmission filled with crucial information about how we live now.” Dial it in

21. Scott Hirsch - Lost Time Behind The Moon What a delightful surprise this album is! I’ve long known Scott Hirsch’s name from the deep dive I took into Hiss Golden Messenger’s history a few years ago, but on this sophomore release he seems to cut loose from all forebears and find a truly individual expression. There’s plenty of variety within as well, from rootsy fingerpicked delicacies to funky Rhythm Ace-driven workouts. I've added seeing Hirsch headline to my 2019 goals. 

22. Dan Lippel, et al - ...Through Which the Past Shines... Exquisite, modern chamber music for guitar by Nils Vigeland and Reiko Füting played with warmth and authority by Lippel (also heard to great effect on the Du Yun album above), joined occasionally by John Popham on cello and Vigeland on piano. I'm also enjoying the opportunity to further explore Füting's sound world on the recently released distant song.

23. Jeff Tweedy - Warm Even though this is Tweedy's first "official" solo album, it also feels like the return of an old friend. The quiet songs seem to contain banked fires, instead of just being quiet, and the lyrics are even more acute than ever, perhaps a reflection on his recent work writing his memoir. 


24. Raoul Vignal - Oak Leaf This French singer-songwriter's second album is like a warm blanket. Each time I listen to his whisper-singing, fingerpicked guitar and gentle accompaniments, I feel ensconced in its hushed universe.


25. Domenico Lancellotti - The Good Is A Big God A lot of people view Brazilian music in their rearview, appreciating and delighting in its extraordinary legacy. Lancellotti proves that this legacy has a future with this album's kaleidoscopic view of Brazil's many musical streams, from bossa nova and samba to tropicalia and beyond. 

Excerpts to all of these, except Scott Johnson and Raoul Vignal, are found in this playlist or below. Listen and let me know what moves you.



Still to come: genre-specific lists highlighting the best of classical, electronic, hip hop, R&B, reggae, rock, folk, reissues and everything else!

You may also enjoy:
Best Of 2017: The Top 25
Best Of 2017: Classical
Best Of 2017: Out Of The Past
Best Of 2017: Electronic
Best Of 2017: Hip Hop, R&B and Reggae
Best Of 2017: Rock, Folk, Etc.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Record Roundup: Cornucopia Of Folk And Americana


I hate to feel that I’m keeping music from people, so before I start my Best Of 2018 series, here are quick takes on some excellent albums in the realms of folk and Americana. I think you’ll find some of them perfect for wintry nesting as the sun sets early and snow brushes the window panes. Others may be good for the family gatherings that can define this time of year.

Raoul Vignal - Oak Leaf It’s rare that you hear an album as assured and accomplished from a well-known artist. But when someone flying under the radar presents such an exquisite piece of work as Oak Leaf, it feels even more astonishing. On this second album by the French singer-songwriter, finger-picked guitars weave a spell alongside occasional shimmering vibes or a gentle sax. Drums tick away minimally in the background. Over it all is Vignal’s hushed voice delivering (in English) introspective confessions and musings. I see a danger of Vignal becoming a “musician’s musician” or a “best-kept secret.” It's up to you not to let that happen.

Olivia Chaney - Shelter Both the production (by Thomas Bartlett) and Chaney’s voice are so polished that I was at first turned off by this, her second album. But then it dawned on me that there was a flood of emotion being held back by a levee of glassy perfection. The key to this is her stunning version of O Solitude, a 300 year-old song by Henry Purcell. The feeling in it is baked into the lyrics and Purcell’s haunting melody, which is the standard she’s set for her own songs. Her lofty ambition is more than repaid, making for a special listening experience. I also wouldn’t complain if her next album was entirely Purcell, John Dowland and other centuries-old British luminaries. 

Ocean Music - Jorge Marco Turino, Beach Captain, Etc. I’ve written before about the wondrous music of Richard Aufrichtig, which he usually puts out as Ocean Music. While he has been fairly prolific in 2018, I have it on good authority that the best is yet to come. The first of these is a five song EP of originals, played solo with either piano or acoustic guitar. It’s a beautiful recording and his expansive songs are easy to get lost in. Beach Captain is mostly covers, some old, like Bird On A Wire, and some newer like Joanna Newsom’s Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie. He always goes deep, making them his own, no more so than in a mournful take on Someday by The Strokes. We’ve also been graced with shimmering, powerful version of Aufrichtig’s Ghost Song with a full band, the closest any recording has yet come to the Ocean Music live experience. Finally, we have two songs from a recent concert at Baby’s All Right - I was there so you can trust me when I say this is just a hint of how great it was. But it’s par for the course for Aufrichtig to drop hints; here’s hoping we get the full story in 2019. 

Phil Cook - People Are My Drug Spending time with Cook’s music is like feeling the sun on your face after a week of rain. This is especially true in concert, as a recent show at Bowery Ballroom (with Andy Jenkins opening!) proved yet again. He draws you in with his smile and seals the deal with his killer guitar and sweet voice. Those last two elements are present on this follow-up to 2015’s  Southland Mission, as well as an increased interest in gospel fervor. That means the album is plenty inspiring, even if the songwriting is a little less sharp. My only other quibble has to do with the inclusion of Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso on several songs - but that’s just because I don’t really like her voice or her band. I guess the divine Alexandra Sauser-Monnig wasn't available! If you feel differently, you will likely be thrilled with her contributions here. Either way, it’s a fine album and if you get a chance to see Cook on stage, don’t hesitate!

The Dead Tongues - Unsung Passage I first caught wind of Ryan Gustafson, who performs under this name, when he opened for and played with Phil Cook at Rough Trade. He quickly lodged in my mind as a master of all things stringed, as well as a fine singer and songwriter deep in the American vein. Now we have his most assured record yet, weaving a spell through a variety of country and folk-tinged textures and settings. To my ears he’s most effective when he pushes it furthest, as on the haunting Ebb And Flow or My Other, which, with its flutes and strings, is the first song that’s reminded me of Nico’s magisterial Chelsea Girl since I first heard that record. It’s fantastic, easily one of the most gorgeous songs of the year. But this whole record deserves your attention. If your give it that, you will likely become a fan of The Dead Tongues. 

John Calvin Abney - Coyote Go take a look at issue #116 of Off Your Radar for a kaleidoscopic look at Abney’s last album, Far Cries And Close Calls. Done? Good. Now, believe me when I say this one is even better. The production alone is worthy of note, burnished and warm, like an old oak table - and the songs are just as solid. Abney’s voice has a touch of Wings-era McCartney and he’s learned a few songwriting lessons from the former Fab as well. These aren't annoying earworms, though, but rather songs that employ sophisticated and unexpected chord changes in a relaxed and naturalistic fashion. This makes for songs that are memorable but also nourishing, repaying repeat and close listening. If Coyote doesn’t significantly expand Abney’s audience, I don’t know what will. 

Anna St. Louis - If Only There Was A River Every once in a while something in my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist will floor me, causing me to stop what I’m doing and make sure to find out all the W’s: who, what, when. Last week it was a song from St. Louis’s previous album, First Songs, something with hypnotic fingerpicking, beautiful singing and a shapely melody. That came out in 2017 and just as I was cursing Spotify and the world for keeping it from me, I noticed she had a new album out. This is a more fully produced affair, but thankfully Kyle Thomas and Kevin Morby have nurtured St. Louis’s talents rather than blanketing them in their own ideas. The songs are exquisite enough on their own - the task is not to ruin them and at that Morby and Thomas more than succeed. Numerophiles who own Catherine Howe's What A Beautiful Place may find a point of reference. This is an album people will be talking about - don’t wait around for an algorithm to deliver it to you.

Billy Joseph & The Army Of Love - You Know Which Way To Go This is my first cousin, OK, but that's not the only reason I've had his latest record on repeat. This is just an excellent collection of soulful rock & folk - and sometimes just plain soul in the Al Green and Robert Cray stylings of Second Time Around. The production is expansive and well-tailored to every song, including a very original take on Suspicious Minds. Stinging guitar leads (either by Nick Kirgo or Billy himself) are lavished on the album with an almost gustatory pleasure and the horns on Holiday Song are sublime. The lyrics can cut to the quick, as on that last song, as honest a depiction of holiday loneliness as has ever been written. "Bing Crosby's on the TV set, I can see him through the window of a furniture store," Billy sings in a line worthy of a scene from a Douglas Sirk classic - just one of the gems to be found on this impressive record. If you live in L.A., he's probably playing somewhere tonight so go out and see him do his thing.

Jeff Tweedy - Warm For the last few years (maybe since the excellent Sukierae) it’s been a bit of a toss up whether or not a Tweedy product is going to truly touch me or just be another expression of consummate competence to be admired and put away. While it’s early days yet with Warm, which is his first true solo album in a 25-year career, I’m pleased to report that I believe this is one of the former. As always, the songs are well-written, but the sense of intimacy, the feeling of someone hoping their hard-won truths will help get you through, is welcome. The musical settings are spare, sensitive - listen to the drumming on From Far Away - and lived-in, harkening back to John Wesley Harding or Plastic Ono Band. Tweedy’s mastery of the pithy lyric is also on full display, using a few words to carry heavy freight, like the chorus of the title track: “I don't believe in Heaven/I keep some heat inside/Like a red brick in the summer/Warm when the sun has died.” There’s enough wisdom on Warm to fill a book - and Tweedy has one of those, too! Listen, read, and and celebrate one of our master artists hitting a new peak. 

Don’t these albums sound like they would be fodder for a great playlist? Gotcha covered (except for Oak Leaf)! See below or click here. What else would you add?