"Before New Age hit terra firma at the dawn of the 1980s, the classically-trained Bay Area composer Jordan De La Sierra's consciousness soared with cosmic concepts. With cues and lessons from the great minimalists La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Pandit Pran Nath, and help from the venerable public radio program Hearts of Space, De La Sierra embarked on journey in alternate tunings and resounding reverberations, transporting entranced listeners from the Golden Gates to the intergalactic." - Numero Group
"If you had met Arthur Lee Harper in 1967, around the time he was writing his debut album, it probably wouldn’t have been too long before he introduced himself as a poet. That might seem strange, considering he did not actually publish poems. Instead, he played guitar and wrote songs—not verse set to music, but rhyming lyrics with verses and choruses, delicate melodies and Romantic imagery. He was then what we might call today a singer-songwriter, but the '60s being the '60s, Harper and his friends Stephen John Kalinich and Mark Lindsey Buckingham had grander ambitions than simply strumming pop tunes or providing entertainment. Poetry was an aspiration, a true calling, a means of peeling away the veneer of society and exposing some hard human truths both beautiful and revolting.
Before Harper signed with Lee Hazlewood’s LHI Records, he was living at the YMCA and sharing bags of potatoes with his friends. Dreams and Images, released under his first name to almost no fanfare, did not do much to change those conditions, and this reissue does not present it as a lost or unheralded classic. Instead, it's another piece of the LHI puzzle that Light in the Attic has been putting together for a few years now. In that regard, it's a revealing artifact of that scene, as well as a gentle statement of purpose by a struggling poet." - Pitchfork
From the impressive range of styles, regions and eras covered (as well as the hours of research that undoubtedly went into this compilation) to the stunning layout and typesetting, Kevin Howes and co. have put together one awe-inspiring document!
"[Native North America]'s power stems from the convergence of familiar influences (Beatles, Stones, Dylan, especially Neil Young) with the traditions, languages and lyrical concerns of the Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples. Apart from Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Saskatchewan-born, US-raised Cree singer who became a 1960s folk star, this strand of North American music has been almost entirely forgotten.
Bringing it to light was a Herculean task for Vancouver-based DJ and compiler Kevin Howes. He began collecting these records 15 years ago, rummaging through record stores, private libraries, dilapidated warehouses and neglected corners of radio station archives in order to find artists who were 'off the grid.'
'The thing that I found appalling and shocking was there was no information available,' he says. 'I’d find a record somewhere and Google the artist and I was shooting blanks. I had to go straight to the source to ask for context and the stories behind the music.'" - The Guardian
"Ariel Kalma's boundary-blurring electronic music is heard here in radiant detail across a selection of work spanning his early free-jazz and spoken-word trips to his infinite modular synthesizer and analogue rhythm-machine meditations. Kalma's story is one of world travel, musical discovery and ego abandonment. Yet for an artist who often discarded public recognition in favor of the ascetic truths in musicmaking, An Evolutionary Music offers the imprint of an outright auteur.
Born in France, but rarely in one place for long, Kalma's 1970s migrations took flight through the decade's furthest spaces of musical and spiritual invention. As a hired horn for well-known French groups, the young musician toured as far as India in 1972, a place where Kalma found an antidote to rock 'n' roll's glitz and glamour in sacred music traditions. Kalma would later return to India and learn circular breathing techniques enabling him to sustain notes without pause against tape-looping harmonies configured through his homemade effects units.
Those effects evolved from Kalma's loyalty to a beloved dual ReVox setup—two tape machines 'chained' together to form a primitive delay unit. Over looped saxophone melodies, Kalma would mix in all shades of polyphonic color, synthesizing fragments of poetry with ambient space or setting modal flute melodies to rippling drum machine patterns and starlit field recordings. The results collapse distinctions between “electro-acoustic”, “biomusicology” and “ambient” categorization." - RVNG Intl.
Our Staff Best Of 2014 list will be posted shortly, but in the meantime here's hoping this guide helps you find the right gift for any or all of the music-obsessed in your life/on your list (current availability cannot be guaranteed, so feel free to call or email us to confirm stock):
VA - Native North America
LEAD KINDLY LIGHT (hardcover + 2CD)
PARCHMAN FARM: Photographs and Field Recordings, 1947-1959 (hardcover + 2CD)
VA - When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936 (3CD)
BOB DYLAN - The Basement Tapes Complete/Raw: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (6CD / 2CD or 3LP)
THE OXFORD AMERICAN - Southern Music Issue 2014 (magazine + CD)
NEIL YOUNG - Storytone (CD or 2CD)
WILCO - What's Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994-2014 (2CD)
WILCO - Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014 (4CD or 4LP)
BLUES IMAGES 2015 CALENDAR: Classic Blues Artwork From The 1920s, Vol. 12 (CD included)
MISANTHROPIC MAVERICKS & CHARISMATIC CRANKS
VA - There's A Dream I've Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971 (8LP/4CD/book/DVD)
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART - Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 (4CD)
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND - S/T (45th Anniversary Deluxe Editions) (CD remaster / 2CD / 2LP / 6CD)
NICK CAVE: 20,000 Days On Earth (DVD/Blu-ray)
EVERYTHING'S GONE GREY: ALTERNATIVE ANNIVERSARY EDITIONS (ET AL.)
BARBED WIRE KISSES: The Jesus and Mary Chain Story (hardcover)
SUB POP USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988 (paperback)
UNWOUND - No Energy (3LP)
BEDHEAD - 1992-1998 (4CD)
The Last Pogo Jumps Again (DVD)
The Pitchfork Review No. 4
YO LA TENGO - Extra Painful (2CD / 2LP)
PIXIES - Doolittle 25 (3CD)
WILLIAM ONYEABOR - CD box set (9CD)
VERCKYS ET L'ORCHESTRE VÉVÉ - Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba (hardcover)
VA - 90 Degrees Of Shade: Hot Jump-Up Island Sounds From The Caribbean (2CD / 2LP [Vols. 1 + 2])
SOUL 'N' ROCK'N'ROLL
VA - Such A Much: R&B Girls of the '50s & '60s
VA - Hang On Sloopy: The Bert Berns Story Volume 3
VA - Bring It On Home: Black America Sings Sam Cooke
L.C. COOKE - The Complete SAR Recordings
JAZZ INNOVATIONS/VOCAL INTERPRETATIONS
JOHN COLTRANE - Offering: Live at Temple University (2CD)
VA - Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82 (2CD / 3LP)
BLACK FIRE! NEW SPIRITS! IMAGES OF A REVOLUTION: Radical Jazz in the USA 1960-75 (hardcover)
VA - Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression (5CD)
BLUE NOTE: UNCOMPROMISING EXPRESSION (hardcover)
SHE & HIM - Classics (CD / LP)
POPULAR POETS/MUSIC MEMOIRS
LEONARD COHEN - Popular Problems (CD / LP)
I'M YOUR MAN: The Life of Leonard Cohen (paperback)
PATTI SMITH - Just Kids (paperback)
JERRY LEE LEWIS: His Own Story (hardcover)
VIV ALBERTINE - Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys (hardcover)
JONI MITCHELL: In Her Own Words (hardcover)
GLYN JOHNS - Sound Man (hardcover)
...AND YOU DON'T STOP
HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE BOOK 1: 1970s-1981 (paperback)
HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE BOOK 2: 1981-1983 (paperback)
CHECK THE TECHNIQUE VOLUME 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies (paperback)
THE DIRTY VERSION: On Stage, In the Studio, and In the Streets with Ol' Dirty Bastard (hardcover)
DISCO: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Cover Art of Disco Records (hardcover)
VA - Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 (2CD / 2LP [Vols. 1 + 2])
(...AND IF YOU'RE STILL STUCK)
GIFT CERTIFICATES (which can be written out in any denomination)
"Losin' Boy" appeared on Volume 2 of the classic Deep Soul Treasures series compiled by Dave Godin; a full compilation has been much sought after by lovers of Southern soul.
"Shreveport, Louisiana's Eddy Giles was the star of Dee Marais' Murco label, on which he released a handful of singles between 1967 and 1969, scoring with the regional hit 'Losin’ Boy.' Southern Soul Brother gathers together all his recordings for the label for the first time ever, including the single that was licensed out to Silver Fox. It highlights a talented artist who was adept at covering all the bases required of soul singers of the time from ballads such as 'Happy Man' and 'While I'm Away (Baby, Keep The Faith)' to the up-tempo dance style of 'Eddy’s Go Go Train.'" - Ace Records
Shreveport, Louisiana’s Eddy Giles was the star of Dee Marais’ Murco label, on which he released a handful of singles between 1967 and 1969, scoring with the regional hit ‘Losin’ Boy’. “Southern Soul Brother” gathers together all his recordings for the label, for the first time ever, including the single that was licensed out to Silver Fox. It highlights a talented artist who was adept at covering all the bases required of soul singers of the time, from ballads such as ‘Happy Man’ and ‘While I’m Away (Baby, Keep The Faith)’ to the up-tempo dance style of ‘Eddy’s Go Go Train’.
Access to the Murco master tapes allows us to include three previously unreleased recordings: a bluesy alternative version of his final Murco single ‘Ain’t Gonna Worry No More’, the wistful ‘It Takes More’, and ‘Pins And Needles’, a country song given an exemplary soul treatment. ‘Love With A Feeling’ also verges on the blues, while ‘Soul Feeling’ is revered by fans of southern funk.- See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/southern-soul-brother-the-murco-recordings-1967-1969#sthash.MmEqlU6Z.dpuf
BESSIE JONES with the Georgia Sea Island Singers and others - Get In Union: Recordings by Alan Lomax 1969-1966
"Students of ethnomusicology and folk music enthusiasts fortunate enough to hear the two or three LPs of Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers can tell you the thrill of hearing the group’s music for the first time.
The singers' dedication to preserving a music with roots that run all the way back to West Africa has enabled generations to hear something of the foundation of spirituals, the blues, jazz, gospel, and many other genres.
Thanks to Tompkins Square, a leader in black sacred music reissue projects, many thousands more can experience the Georgia Sea Island Singers with the release of Get In Union. And for those who have heard the group before, take heed: more than half of the 51 selections, recorded by Alan Lomax between 1959 and 1966, have not been issued publicly until now." - Journal of Gospel Music
We already loved his first set of vocal pop/rock tunes for Paradise Of Bachelors (last year's Time Off), but hadn't gotten around ('til right now) to mentioning this equally stealthily-subdued and subtle follow-up album, released last month and sure to make its way onto the lists of record-store staffers and music critics in the weeks ahead/as this year winds down.
"For years, Gunn never toured—for much of the ’00s, he jammed endlessly with pals and co-conspirators and studiously developed his guitar style, which is described reductively as folk but draws on a wide swath of music that includes blues, jazz, Indian classical, punk, and the Grateful Dead. He never wanted to be a traditional virtuoso who played wheedle-wheedle-whee-style solos. Rather, he’s a rhythmic player inclined to repetition and improvisation, more about appreciating forward motion than traveling to a specific destination.
Gunn also had to develop confidence as a vocalist—singing for people will always be more terrifying than playing guitar—though that initial tentativeness isn’t evident on Way Out Weather, his most straightforward and rock-oriented record. Gunn’s singing echoes his playing: It is relaxed and intimate, like a late-night conversation with a trusted confidant, and it gently draws you into the hypnotically beguiling songs." - Grantland
"Between 1967 and 1977 Designer label founder Style Wooten and his studio main man Roland Janes, a heroic figure in Memphis music, produced between 400 and 500 gospel singles. Many of the artists they recorded came from Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas, but as the label’s reputation grew they began arriving from more far flung locales—Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, Ohio, the Carolinas, Florida, California—sometimes literally waiting in line for their turn to cut at Janes' Sonic Studios." - Big Legal Mess
Although composed for a dance work by Wayne McGregor, this music stands on its own. Those enamored with Max Richter's recent boxset (which included Infra, a piece also created for Wayne McGregor) will find much to love in A Winged Victory For The Sullen's ambient/classical washes of sound.
"If Stars of the Lid's music sounds like a hollowed-out 100-piece ensemble with ether for its innards, AWVFTS is the opposite. Made from strings, piano, the occasional horn, and electric guitars processed into ambient washes and scrawls, it's all inner voices coiled together, more classical than drone. The music is recorded in large spaces, so that between natural acoustic and electronic effects, every instrument seems to float in an ocean-sized force field of harmonic resonance. Minimal melodic information carries maximal tone, the few voices somehow resplendently full and forlornly isolated at once." - Pitchfork
We've been fans of Tamara Lindeman for quite a while now, and while her previous release All Of It Was Mine was a doozy (whose songs we had the pleasure of hearing performed live in our shop), this new EP, maybe due to the confluent factors of arresting concision, great performances, and hushed depth of lyrical detail, has bowled over many of us on staff here, not unlike the lightheaded rush of new love (followed by sober consideration of its consequences) that this mini-song cycle so eloquently and beautifully revolves around.
"The Weather Station returns with this limited edition 12" 45 RPM EP. The 6-song EP was recorded with Daniel Romano and the acclaimed North Carolina band Megafaun. Each side of the record is a trio of interconnected songs: Side A is a meditation on knowledge; Side B is a narrative, a love story in three parts. It is a quiet, yearning, and soulful record that expands on the acoustic folk of All Of It Was Mine (YC-011) while deepening the intimacy." - You've Changed
While this writer's most partial to Lonnie Holley's spaced-out interludes (the one nod to Russell's more exploratory side aside from Blood Orange's medleying of modern composition/disco in nudging "Tower Of Meaning" up against "Is It All Over My Face?"), along with more traditional (yet effectively intimate) covers turned in by Sam Amidon, Devendra Banhart and Alexis Taylor, it's DM Stith-featuring duo The Revival Hour that's the nicest surprise to these ears, whose version of "Hiding Your Present From You" has electronics/beats slowly filling in its initially-conventional folk-pop cracks.
"Russell's understated influence, undeniable innovation, and untimely death explain why Master Mix came about—and why it’s so damn good. His recordings are patently unique, but they’re not ubiquitous; whether imitating or reinventing, Master Mix's cast didn’t have to fear the backlash commonly associated with performing well-known classics. Both approaches work." - Entertainment Weekly
One to rate alongside Caetano Veloso's recent string of consistent studio releases, Gilbertos Samba is a classy return to form produced in a tastefully sparse/stripped-down manner that flatters both singer (G. Gil) and songbook (J. Gilberto) alike.
"In the realm of Brazilian music there's only one bigger Gilberto than Gilberto Gil, and that is none other than the patron god of bossa nova, the legendary João Gilberto. In Gilbertos Samba, Gil pays tribute to the master in a two-fold way, firstly by recording his own versions of songs indelibly associated withJoão Gilberto (plus two originals by Gil), and secondly by doing something similar to what Gilberto did on his classic 1981 album Brasil. Gilberto recorded Brasil together with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Maria Bethânia, but chose a repertoire of standards by composers Ary Barroso and Dorival Caymmi, effectively melding the three most important movements of Brazilian popular music into a single album, the sambas of the '30s and '40s, the bossa nova of the '60s, and the tropicalismo of the '70s. After 33 years, it's Gil who plays cultural synthesist by bringing together the bossa of João Gilberto, his own not-too-shabby musical legacy, and input from a young generation of Brazilian artists who have, silently but steadily, become a leading force in the contemporary scene, the trio ofDomenico Lancelotti, Pedro Sá, and Moreno Veloso (son of Caetano), as well as his own son Bem Gil and Danilo Caymmi, son of Dorival and Nana Caymmi--in short, just about the entire history of Brazilian popular music under one roof." - Allmusic
The Budos Band have consistently produced retro grooves that could have been written in an earlier era (namely, that of the '60s/'70s). On this new outing, they let their hair grow out by adding some heavy fuzz to the mix. Like The Chamber Brothers said, my soul has been psychedelicized!
"Don't let that album cover and title fool you. The level of departure here is so slight that the boys could've gone ahead and just slapped a roman numeral four on there. The Budos Band's approach to instrumental funk/soul has always had a touch of the ominous. They reclaim the original grandeur of Beethoven's Fifth while fitting into the fun and frivolity of how the symphony has been fetishized over time. It's music for dancing, to be sure, but it contains a mood that sort of hovers over the revelry. It's looking down on itself from a great height. It isn't imbued with judgement, necessarily, but a grave sort of knowingness. It feels good in the crowd, bathed in darkness and strange lights. But something is moving us, and we are a little bit scared of the possession. Most dance music uses this feeling as a segue to release; Budos Band just lays in the pocket and glowers with a fierce but composed solemnity." - Tiny Mix Tapes
Exquisitely recorded and arranged in a manner that can't help but bring to mind the contemporary production work of Geoff Barrow for Portishead, Beak> and Anika, Timber Timbre members Olivier Fairfield and Simon Trottier deliver a groovily sustained, classily motorik mood melding occasionally queasy dissonance and electronic/tape treatments with easy-on-the-ears orchestration on this debut album.
"Constellation stalwarts Do Make Say Think and Exhaust are reference points, but it's the redesigned krautrock of Tortoise that is most suitably comparable to Last Ex’s approach here. Groove, minimalism and disorder all have their place on this album. Occasional tracks, such as 'Girl Seizure' and 'Cape Fear' make obvious the project's roots in soundtracking but then there’s the almost danceable opener 'Hotel Blues' and the Third-era Portishead art rock of 'Resurrection Drive I' to contend with." - Drowned In Sound
Another round of drifting beauty from the stalwart Häpna trio, with the airy, gently picked/keyed refrains this time out catching this writer's ear more than their last effort, 2011's Revelationes, hewing (slightly) closer to the feel of '08's Luminarium.
"Tape have been distilling minimalism, experimentalism and pure pop into inimitably ravishing music for fourteen years now. This, their sixth album, is their most luminous to date. The group’s sound has evolved over the years, but its subtlety in artfully blending acoustic and electronic inputs is a constant...Having reverted to an absence of percussion for Casino, the trio’s multi-instrumental approach is further pared to a simple palette of analogue electronics plus guitar and/or piano and electric keys. Each of the album’s seven tracks lasts an even six or seven minutes, and each is gently insistent and acutely melodic; each an instant hit of pure aural pleasure." - Dalston Sound
Dust-to-Digital seem to have kept quiet on the release front this year (compared to the bounty of reissues and archival releases they've graced us with in the recent past), so we were especially glad to see this set of digitized rare/regional '30s 78s come in!
"Produced by April and Lance Ledbetter utilizing transfers from the Music Memory archive, Arkansas at 78rpm features original recordings made between 1928-1937. The CD and the 32-page booklet serve as a companion album to the newly-released photograph book, Making Pictures: Three for a Dime by Maxine Payne. All of the photos in this package are from the same cache of photographs taken by the Massengil family in their mobile photo-booth trailer throughout rural Arkansas in the 1930s-1940s." - Dust-to-Digital
Yes, the Nick Cave and Gun Club comparisons are more than apt on this third record by the Danish punks whose instrumental and formal experimentation gets slightly less bounded here, but equally worthy of mention is the influence of The Pogues on tracks like the raucous, mandolin-laced stumble-boogie "Abundant Living." If you're looking for something sullen (and just a touch goofy, in a borderline goth way) to swoon and sulk to, Plowing... might be what you're after—as with any bad-boy dalliance, though, just be careful not to get too close.
"Iceage's angular guitars still manage to sit well alongside piano hits and jabbing violins; it's interesting to hear a little country shuffle on 'The Lord's Favourite' followed by the unnerving poundings of 'Cimmerian Shade,' but it's vocalist Elias Bender that binds it all together. His utterings invoke an image of a frontman giving it his all whilst squirming upon a beer-soaked stage floor. But beneath the growls are still some finely poetic lyrics, something that doesn't register upon first listen, but with more attention one realises there's some clever and arresting wordplay involved. Anyone feeling that post-punk has been revitalised one too many times may find it a bash to the ears but the racket grows on you, and the smarts and heart beneath the dissonance become apparent with every press of the play button." - Under The Radar
As the full title/cover of this sophomore album suggests, Kevin Morby's songwriting keeps the playfully serious tone set on Harlem River (a 2013 staff fave here), thriving on collaboration while also seemingly needing the necessary time alone to recharge and rebuild. Having recently parted ways with Woods and moved to L.A., Still Life finds Morby managing to successfully echo the work of peers and elders (Kurt Vile, Cass McCombs, even Bill Fay in the way each vocal line lilts up on closer "Our Moon") while starting to come into his own and stand out as a bandleader/solo artist.
"[Still Life] reflects both time in transit and the quiet confines of his new home in Montecito Heights. Scenes of performers, audience expectations and the paradoxical confines of a roving individual perpetually caught in a crowd percolate the songs, notably in 'The Jester, The Tramp, The Acrobat,' and 'Parade.' (Morby calls the latter an elegy of sorts for one of his major influences, Lou Reed). Violent fates, wrestling with destiny and the nature of death creep into songs like 'The Ballad of Arlo Jones,' 'Bloodsucker' and 'Amen.' Even Morby's more obvious love songs like 'All of My Life,' 'Drowning' and “Our Moon” are highly bittersweet; the characters in these songs seem to never quite find each other, but perhaps they find themselves.
As with Harlem River, Still Life is once again produced by Rob Barbato (Cass McCombs, Darker My Love), who adds his signature guitar and bass playing to the album. The album was engineered and mixed by Drew Fischer, who worked on Harlem River as well as The Babies' second full length album Our House on the Hill, and was recorded between March and June of 2014 at Barbato and Fischer's new Burbank recording studio, Comp'ny. Morby is also once again joined by Justin Sullivan (The Babies) on drums and percussion." - Woodsist
With co-producer (and recent Polaris Prize winner for his work with Tanya Tagaq and Jesse Zubot as the core trio behind Tagaq's Animism) Jean Martin once again helping at the helm, anyone already entranced by Southworth and ace backing band The South Seas' 2010 effort Human Cry now has twice the adventurous performances and ambitious songcraft to enjoy with this double-disc tribute to the two halves, towns, and states of nation-mind that are/is Niagara Falls, ON/NY.
"Southworth's best songs tend to be evocative, romantic and whimsical, and there are a number of knockouts here: the euphoric build and release of 'Ode To The Morning Sky'; the slow, dull, spiritual thud of Andrew Downing's acoustic bass on 'Folk Art Cathedral'; the mystical, infinite yet minute lullaby that is 'Irish Tree Alphabet' and Felicity Williams' breathy, Wurlitzer-chased lift-off at the end of closer 'Loving You. But there's also variety: 'Hey I've Got News For You' is assertively American; the melody on 'Womb Of Time' sounds like it's lifted from the American Songbook with Southworth sounding exhausted (but not in a bad way); and there's a Waits-ian groove on 'Halloween Election.' It's dreamy eccentricity: a little crazy and courageous, and a strong statement." - Exclaim!