Several dependable bands, some innovators and a few pleasant surprises made the list of IPR's Studio One hosts' favorite music of 2014.
Host Charity Nebbe talks with Studio One hosts Mark Simmet and Tony Dehner about their favorite independent and alternative music of the year. Each host picked five releases. Bob Dorr, host of Backtracks, Blue Avenue and Beatles Medley on Studio One also joined in the fun. Below are their full lists with notes.
Mark Simmet: The first three are from more established, dependable bands. The last two are more innovative, including Sturgill Simpson whose album gets more psychedelic as you go along, and deals with subject matter that's not typical for country. Oy's music is about storytelling and folk wisdom.
TV ON THE RADIO- “Happy Idiot” (Seeds)
Seeds is the fifth full-length album from TV on The Radio. The band formed in Brooklyn, NY in 2001 and have retained the same line-up for most of their career. This is the first album from the group since the death (from cancer) of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011. The amusing video for “Happy Idiot” features Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman).
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- “Dancehall Domine” (Brill Bruisers)
This is the sixth studio album from the Vancouver-based band. It’s their first new release in four years. Band members A.C. Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar, Kathryn Calder, Blaine Thurier, John Collins, Kurt Dahle and Todd Fancey have solo work, other bands and side projects to keep them busy between New Pornographers albums. There is a wealth of talent in this band, creating songs that set the standard for indie-pop.
SPOON- “Rent I Pay” (They Want My Soul)
Lead vocalist and guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno formed the band twenty years ago in Austin, Texas. Since around 2001, each new Spoon record has been eagerly anticipated, and they continue to come up with a great new album every few years. Daniel, Eno and the others have side bands and produce other artists, keeping it fresh when it’s time for a new Spoon record .
STURGILL SIMPSON- “Turtles All The Way Down” (Metamodern Sounds In Country Music)
A left-field “Best Americana Album” Grammy-nominated record. The “metamodern” part comes from Simpson’s psychedelic touches and philosophical/religious lyrical musings. It’s “Cosmic American Music” but different from the way Gram Parsons imagined it.
OY- “Tortoise and Hunter” (No Problem Saloon)
Oy is based in Berlin and led by vocalist/songwriter/musician Joy Frempong, who is Swiss-Ghanaian. No Problem Saloon is this year’s prime example of what I call “World Citizen” music. African musical elements (with lyrics sung in English), expressing indigenous folk wisdom and an ultimately optimistic worldview.
Tony Dehner: I just keep coming back to The War on Drugs. St. Vincent shows just how far out there you can get. M.C. Taylor isn't searching for the answers on this album, it's all about asking the questions.
THE WAR ON DRUGS – “Red Eyes” (Lost in the Dream)
This is the third album from The War On Drugs, based in Philadelphia. The songs from this album combine familiar influences (Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan come to mind) with lots of synthesizers, reverb and delay on the guitars, and even a saxophone. The resulting sound is huge, with lots of space and big choruses.
ST. VINCENT – “Bring Me Your Loves” (St. Vincent)
St. Vincent is the stage name of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark, and this is her fourth album (fifth if you include her collaboration with David Byrne from 2012). This is a thoroughly modern-sounding album that is also deeply human. St. Vincent began to have a higher profile this year, filling in as the bandleader on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and appearing on the show Portlandia.
HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER – “Mahogany Dread” (Lateness Of Dancers)
Officially a duo, Hiss Golden Messenger is primarily the project of singer-songwriter M.C. Taylor from North Carolina. This albums fits comfortably into the genres of Americana and alt-country, with some added R&B, gospel, and funk influences. The songs are meditations on life, fatherhood, faith, and other heavy subjects, but Taylor always comes across as a guy who is comfortable with not having the answers.
THE HARPOONIST AND THE AXE MURDERER – “Do Whatcha” (A Real Fine Mess)
This blues duo from Vancouver consists of Shawn Hall (vocals, harmonica) and Matthew Rogers (guitar, most other instruments) has performed at several major festivals and been nominated for multiple Maple Blues Awards. They have become known for their live performances, often playing percussion parts with their feet. You can see this for yourself on YouTube.
TWINS - “Babe City” (Tomboy On Parade)
From Waterloo, Iowa, the members of Twins are unabashed fans of classic power pop – The Beatles, The Who, Big Star, The Replacements and so on. They still manage to take these influences and create a sound that is uniquely their own. If you’re into loud rock and roll, this is as good as it gets, and you’ll find it to be a breath of fresh air. Twins performed at several large music festivals in Iowa in the last couple of years, including 80/35, Gross Domestic Products and the River Roots Festival.
Bob Dorr: I feel uncomfortable calling this THE BEST. It's my favorites, plus releases I think listeners should be aware of, all in less than 20 minutes! I s'pose I could be labeled a traditionalist. I gravitate toward 50s/60s Chicago sounding bands. I also like the 60s/70s soul sounding bands. My three favorites all got multiple Blues Music Award nominations (announced Dec. 10.) Although I did not include any [of their] music, I also really like The Mannish Boys disc Wrapped Up And Ready. The Boys got three BMA nominations. I always like to list some discs by new comers to the national scene. Missy Andersen, Austin Walkin' Cane, and Fo' Reel are artists that listeners are likely to hear WAY more about in coming years.
Blue Avenue picks:
SUGAR RAY & THE BLUETONES - "Rat Trap" (Living Tear To Tear)
Sugar Ray got SIX BMA nominations (Blues Music Awards.)
ELVIN BISHOP - "Can't Even Do Wrong, Right"
This is the strongest Elvin disc in A LONG time. SIX BMA nominations
JOHN NEMETH & THE BO-KEYS - "3 Times A Fool" (Memphis Grease)
ROBERT CRAY - "You Move Me" (In My Soul)
KIM SIMMONDS & SAVOY BROWN - "Goin' Down To The Delta"
My most pleasantly suprising CD is from a British Invasioner. Simmonds has led Savoy Brown since 19661. This is a smokin' blues-rock record.
MISSY ANDERSEN - "Hey Now!" (In The Moment)
AUSTIN WALKIN' CANE - "Living, Working, Dying" (One Heart Walkin')
FO' REEL - "Shake n Bake" (Heavy Water)
This song could be the second coming of Tower Of Power!
CATFISH KEITH - "Best Jelly In The Neighborhood" (Honey Hole)
THE BLUE BAND - "I Like To Rock In The Morning" (33 & 1/3)
THE SOUL SEARCHERS - "Burns Farm Stomp" (Boogie Woogie Night Hawk)
BOB DYLAN & THE BAND (Complete Basement Tapes) boxset
(FEISTY FIFTIES FEMALES) has been getting some nice comments from BT listeners.
CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, & YOUNG - "Teach Your Children" (1974)