2017 was Donald Trump’s first year as president of the United States. Perhaps it is “outrage fatigue” at play, but it seems in retrospect that the albums that resonated with me this past year share certain qualities. Most of my favorites exhibit patience, steadfastness, focus, and determination. I needed music that is restorative. I needed it to provide space for my brain and my soul.
Jared C. Balogh — Between Probabilities (Evgeny Gerasimchuk, Grigory Bazhanov and Jared C. Balogh)
Balogh’s compositions are complex thorny things sometimes. Rhythmically dense, melodically spiky, angular in all the best ways. What a treat to hear this set of compositions realized with live guitar (played by Evgeny Gerasimchuk) instead of rendered via computer. Available as a free download on WFMU’s Free Music Archive. Disclosure: Jared is my friend and bandmate.
For much of this year I felt as though I was not able to keep abreast of music releases well enough to even pick favorites. Then suddenly towards the end of the year I came across several really great releases and A Tribe Called Quest dropped their first album in years which turned out to be amazing. Who knows, another great album might get released in the few remaining days of 2016…
The Body — No One Deserves Happiness
Starting off quiet and dark like Miranda Sex Garden, this album soon gives way to slow-crushing heavy guitar glaciers. Almost like Swans in the 90s turning back into Swans in the 80s.
Here’s my list of favorite releases for this past year, presented in alphabetical order:
Lucrecia Dalt — Ou
This is filmic, cinematic music. Sounds creep in and out of view with the seamless rhythm of the best film editors. Texture and grit are key ingredients but harmonies do sometimes emerge to lend a familiar emotional anchor to the abstraction. There’s a radiophonic wooziness that bathes the whole affair in nostalgia.
There were so many interesting album releases in 2014 I felt I could barely keep up. In fact, I was still adding titles to my Best of 2014 contenders list late into December. Here are some of my favorites, in alphabetical order:
The Bug — Angels & Devils
Kevin Martin returns to his The Bug alias for a full length LP and several EPs worth of mutant bass music in 2014. More than any other electronic music producer, Kevin understands the equal importance of mass/weight and texture. Both aspects are deployed extremely effectively whether the track is an atmospheric snarling dub-wise bass mantra or a neck-snapping mutant-dancehall-cum-grime firestarter.
Time, once again, to review some of my favorite music releases from the past year (pretty much the only regular feature of this “blog”). 2013 was a very fruitful year for alt-R&B/future-R&B as well as for Chicago-London bass hybrids. All the usual caveats apply. There is always too much music to hear all the great releases in a year but these grabbed me more than the rest. I look forward to reading all the other lists to catch up on what I missed.
Chants — I Feel Like I Feel It
If memory serves, I heard about this release via dj /rupture’s Mudd Up blog. The most obvious signposts are Shlohmo or Origami Sound’s post-Burial soundscapes but Chants manages to make an electronic music album that sounds extremely personal and expressive. There is a strong enough identity to shrug off easy comparisons.
Recently, Facetime on my work laptop stopped working properly. Even with the correct ID and password, the app would “verify” my account but then refuse to activate Facetime. Instead I would get this error:
The registering device does not have appropriate credentials
I posted this video recently of my acoustic cover of “Arundel” by Papa M.
Someone asked in the comments for tabs, so I went about trying to make some. I used TuxGuitar, which was not a bad experience but the pdf export looks really fuzzy. If anyone has any tips for improving the output, I’d love to hear them.
Hope you enjoy learning this piece, it’s one of my favorite guitar solos.
[UPDATE 13 November 2017]: Thanks to a commenter on YouTube I learned the new version of TuxGuitar has better PDF output. The tab file has been updated and it is much easier to read (plus smaller file size)!
There are still some great albums and singles being released mid-December, including a new 12-inch from Burial, which could easily be included here if I had had more time with them before compiling this year’s list. As always, this is my small contribution to the mass of music nerd list-making that happens at the end of each calendar year. I’m sure I’ve missed some of your favorites and I will likely read a lot of other lists to satisfy my curiosity over missed items and unjust dismissals. I hope you find something to enjoy!
Selections in alphabetical order
Burial — Kindred
Hyperdub have released two 12-inch records from Burial in 2012. If you like Burial you likely know what to expect. No surprises here: crackly atmosphere, meta-rave sonic vocabulary, skittery percussion… All the things I always love about Burial, no matter how same-y it’s starting to get. The only surprise, then, could be that I’m still not tired of Burial music.