By: N. David Pastor
I don’t think I’ve ever made a list of favorites for the year. In the past, I’ve either been behind on the new releases or preoccupied with older classics to really bother with writing a proper one. This year was a little different. The irony is that I probably listened to less music and more podcasts than ever before. But I also discovered a lot of new sounds, mostly, if not all of them coming from Latin America. Even now, in December, I’m just listening to Ana Tijoux’s latest album Vengo, which is fire. This comes after months of listening to Calle 13’s new album, which was a surprise to say the least. Musically speaking, it’s as diverse as Latin America, incorporating sounds from genres like reggae, hip-hop, rock, folk and so on. But that’s not what makes this an important album. Thematically, Multiviral is like a manifesto against ignorance, a political awakening from an unexpected source. It’s anthemic, emotive, clever, honest, and more importantly, accessible. It’s what people need to hear in the way they needed to hear it.
Moving on, Buscabulla finally released their long-awaited EP and it didn’t disappoint. Danay Suarez re-released her debut albumPolvo de la humedad. It hadn’t been available in the US for a while, but with a proper band and better recordings, she’s going to be an artist worth keeping an eye on. La Santa Cecilia is another group breaking through to bilingual audiences. Their cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” went viral after they released a video dedicated to undocumented workers. Salt Cathedral, a Brooklyn-based band originally from Colombia, put out another solid EP. I don’t even know what to consider their sound, but it’s dynamic, complex, and starting to coalesce into something beautiful. The music video they released for “Holy Souls” is also worth checking out.
Other than that, I tried to keep up with some of the more anticipated releases throughout the year. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about St. Vincent’s new record. I thought it lacked a certain warmth found on her previous albums, though the hype machine didn’t seem to mind. The more bombastic sound makes sense I suppose. That being said, her musicianship is still something to behold and she turned out Prospect Park for one summer night in Brooklyn. The Roots released another great album, but what else is new? and then you shoot your cousin… was probably one of the more difficult recordings I listened to this year, but rewarding enough when you have the time to sit down and appreciate it. RATKING’s debut So It Goes (Vonnegut anyone?) was my favorite rap album hands down. It had a vintage New York sound to it that makes a native proud to still live in this city…for now. Los Angeles Police Department won my heart with a lo-fi collection of folk-indie songs. Little Dragon’s new album was okay, but only a few choice cuts really stuck with me. Summer should have belonged to Leisure Cruise, which should be self-explanatory. Wye Oak’s sophomore album was solid, yet fleeting. Dot Hacker released not one, but two albums…now if only they would tour the East Coast. In other news, Bad Cello, aka Zeno, put out an anthemic slow jam called “Cover Your Smiling.” Comfy released its full record (Utica represent). Denzel White released a long overdue EP of R/B neo-soul transcendence. It’s not a concept record per se, but it is an experience.
I have to mention that this is also the year that some of my favorite artists were somewhat disappointing. Like I said, I wasn’t crazy about the St. Vincent self-titled and I also felt indifferent toward Warpaint’s second album, though a few of those tracks ought to be sampled if only for Stella Mozgawa’s drumming. And as a devout John Frusciante fan, Enclosure was not the follow up to PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone that I would have hoped for. Black Knights was terrible. Kimono Kult was okay, though I haven’t liked any of Nicole Turley’s projects thus far (sorry John). I know it sounds very selfish of me, but not being able to enjoy a John Frusciante record or any of his projects was a bummer.
Now I just want to shout out a few singles and records I have in queue. “Distance” by Emily King, along with the accompanying video, is just another notch in her already amazing repertoire. “I Love You All” by the Soronprfbs (from the film Frank) was a nice surprise. Michael Fassbender is officially good at everything. I still need to listen to the Flying Lotus album and the new J. Cole. On the other hand, I might have to settle down and see how far this new D’Angelo record will take me through 2015. Oh, and somehow Olga Bell had me listening to her sing in Russian on KRAI and I didn’t mind. The end.