Tuesday, January 6, 2015

TnJ BEST of 2014


10) TOM PETTY & the HEARTBREAKERS – Hypnotic Eye

This is not the best album in Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers catalog.  It’s probably not even in their top five.  Yet, they play so well together, even a fair-to-middling effort like this makes my list of the year’s best.  Sorry everyone else, you’re just not as cohesive.

HIGH POINTS: Red River; Forgotten Man; Shadow People

09) BIG DADDY LOVE – This Time Around
I’ve had my ears on this group for a while, and they seem to have hit their stride with this latest release.  Like many a great live band (and they are pretty great), their “sound” is hard to nail down, being a real cocktail of styles, so I’m gonna go with the labels “rootsy” and “jubilant.”

HIGH POINTS: Smoke Under the Water; Kerosene; Star Spangled Blues

08) UMPHREY’S McGEE – Similar Skin

Bravo!  I wasn’t sure if one of the world’s greatest live bands had another solid studio album in them, but they managed to pull it off this time.  No small feat, capturing that lightning in a bottle – just ask the Grateful Dead.  This album at least hints at the grandeur of the live experience, especially in the case of “Bridgeless.”

HIGH POINTS: Bridgeless; Loose Ends; Similar Skin

07) ISRAEL NASH – Rain Plans

Truly, this music has charms to soothe the savage breast.  I feel like I’m the deadly cobra and he’s the snake-charmer.  Imagine a more etheric Crosby, Stills & Nash, sprinkle in a more psychedelic version of The Band, and toss with a liberal dose of Jim James.  Their acoustic arrangements sound great too, which testifies to the strength of the original compositions.  Hear an acoustic set here: http://www.santafe.com/podcasts/listen/israel-nash-live-in-studio-ii

HIGH POINTS: Rexanimarum; Rain Plans; Who in Time

06) LEFTOVER SALMON – High Country

This band may never have gelled this well, at least on record.  Purists will argue there’s no replacing Mark Vann, but Andy Thorn is getting it done, and now they’ve added Little Feat’s Bill Payne on keyboards.  Word is they’re blowing doors these days with the live shows as well.  It’s sad when a band loses an original member, and easy to dismiss them as no longer valid, but Salmon has totally leveled up on their awesomeness with “High Country.”

HIGH POINTS: Two Highways; High Country; Get Up and Go

05) EARPHUNK – Sweet Nasty

I can see where it might be hard for a band to stand out in a city like New Orleans, chock-a-block with amazing bands as it is, but with this band’s (apparently) third album, “Sweet Nasty,” maybe standing out isn’t so hard as long as you’re absolutely incredible.  This is my first foray into their funky jungle, but I’m already looking forward to more.  They’re playing some fine venues and festivals around the country, so I think we should all catch them while we can.

HIGH POINTS: Check the Pulse; Sweet Nasty; Lippy


Now this is an album!  Hard to believe it’s been almost 10 years since their last studio release but, for the faithful, it was worth it.  Many of the songs were thoroughly road-tested over the last few years, so there was likely little guesswork laying them down for the record.  Oddly enough, a Michael Kang song entitled “Betray the Dark” also appeared on their last album.  For an object lesson in how songs can evolve over time, listen to both, then understand that every gem on this album has gone through the process of perfection over years of performance.

HIGH POINTS: Colorado Bluebird Sky; Colliding; Rosie; Song in My Head

03) STURGILL SIMPSON – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

Drop the needle (or the laser, or whatever you kids use nowadays) on this masterpiece and prepare to understand why us old bastards are so haterous about new music in general.  Aside from being a trippy, double-take worthy time machine, Sturgill has boldly decided that country music can also have a spiritual, cosmic angle.  He’s probably not raking in the bucks yet, and maybe he doesn’t care about that anyway, which makes these grooves sound all the better to my ears.  About music, Sturgill says (from The Fader): “It was never anything that was encouraged or anything that I thought I could do for a living. Everybody back home plays music; it’s what you do when you’re done with your real job.”

HIGH POINTS: Life of Sin; Living the Dream; It Ain’t All Flowers; Turtles All the Way Down

02) moe. – No Guts, No Glory

Even better than their last one (2012’s What Happened to the La Las), and it was fantastic.  This band is so refreshingly unashamed to be a jamband I want to give them a sloppy, collective kiss.  Two of these tracks clock in at unseemly studio times, presumably to represent the ends of imaginary “Sets 1 and 2,” and are two of the high points on this record.  I know it can be hard for a band to pull it back in the studio and resist the urge to show off how many weird time signatures and diminished chords you can expertly use, but moe. has just settled in and decided to be the band that they are: a killer one.

HIGH POINTS: Silver Sun; Same Old Story; Billy Goat; Do or Die; Little Miss Cup Half Empty

01) TV on the RADIO - Seeds

Do yourself a favor: listen to this one on a decent sound system.  You’re doing yourself and the band a disservice if you don’t.  “Seeds” grabbed me from track one and wouldn’t let go, and I mean: I literally felt earjacked.  These guys are in complete control of their craft, which seems to be making every track an all-out head trip.  And, in this age of the disappearing artifact, I also appreciate their crazy op-art album cover (yes, the back cover works too).  As usual, they seem disinterested in formulating “radio songs,” and focus instead on the art of recording and releasing a bona fide audio experience.  It will tickle parts of your brain you didn’t know existed.

HIGH POINTS: Careful You; Quartz; Ride; Lazerray; Test Pilot; Right Now


10) TEMPLES – Shelter Song

No shortage of neo-psychedelia this year, but this was one of the catchiest.

09) JACK WHITE – Lazaretto

The mad scientist of rock’n’roll returns with another concrete slab of kookiness.

08) NIKKI LANE – Right Time

She could single-handedly spearhead a “bad girl” revival in country music with this one.

07) 7HORSE – Flying High (With No I.D.)

This duo’s follow-up to the criminally obscure “Let the 7Horse Run” has a few high points, but none higher than this.

06) BLACK KEYS – Gotta Get Away

Dan Auerbach proves his 70s sound-sculpting mettle yet again with this Cheap Trick-esque rocker.  I must now re-examine my opinion of arena rock.

05) CHET FAKER – Gold

Like the best Moby or Beck records, this takes rare grooves of the past and weaves them brilliantly with more modern sounds.  As for the video, well, I admit to a long-standing weakness for rollergirls.

04) GALACTIC featuring JJ GREY – Higher and Higher

A devastatingly funky one-off collaboration between two of my all-time faves.  JJ’s throaty vocals sound great on top of Galactic’s ten-ton-truck of a sound.  These grooves will crush anything that stands in their way.

03) BOY and BEAR – Southern Sun

Twenty years from now, when they’re advertising a “Sounds of the 2010’s” compilation on TV or whatever eyeball implants we’ll be using to consume our media, this is likely to be on the playlist.  Maybe they’ll call it “Trail Mix Rock.”

02) HOZIER – Take Me to Church

This musical meme managed to crawl under a lot of skin this year, and if the Saturday Night Live appearance is any indication, this combo is ready to take the world by storm.  Calling it “soulful” seems trite, but it is deeply emotional and hits all the right notes.

01) ST. VINCENT – Digital Witness

This year’s most perfectly-constructed 3-minutes-and-change.  I hear a little Talking Heads influence, which fills me with nostalgic delight.  By turns bombastic and quirky-quiet; robotic and humanistic, this defector from Polyphonic Spree has taken the concept of nerdy chorale rock to the next level.

Curious to hear these singles?  The SantaFe.com version of this list has a video playlist embedded.


ALLAH-LAS – As Lenny Kravitz is to the 70s, so Allah-Las are to the 60s.
BROTHER’S KEEPER – No-frills rock’n’roll is a rarity these days.  Enjoy “Days Go By.”
ROBERT ELLIS – Country doesn’t come more dangerous; like being on the verge of a bad trip.
the FAR WEST – If The Band had been from California, they might’ve sounded just like this.
HOWLIN’ BROTHERS – Sparse and unapologetically rowdy.
KI: THEORY – Not many DJs catch my ear.  Got hooked on “Kitty Hawk.”
ST. PAUL & the BROKEN BONES – Reviving the Muscle Shoals sound was a great idea.  Grab a partner and get close.
SHOVELS & ROPE – No idea how just two people can make this much noise.  Let “Evil” envelop you.
TRIGGER HIPPY – This supergroup is, in fact, super.  Hardest-hitting is “Tennessee Mud”
TURKUAZ – Now that’s funky!



DJ / musician / producer Paul Feathericci has been a mainstay on the Santa Fe scene for a number of years.  I was first introduced to his talents as one-third of the electronic trio D Numbers.  On this album—just one of several noteworthy releases on the Mesa label in 2014—Feathericci fastidiously layers each soundscape.  The end result is not unlike looking at snowflakes through a microscope.  As the name of the album implies, it’s easy to get lost in here.



I reckon he has done staked his claim!  Easy to dismiss as mere retreaded traditionalism, but his guitar and his songs pack a wallop.  Don’t listen to this double-album if you hate great live recordings!


WIDESPREAD PANIC – 10/31/14 1stBank Center, Broomfield, CO

This was not only the best Widespread Panic show I’ve ever seen, it might be the best live show I’ve ever seen, period.  They brought their A-game and threw down hard, with several “first-time-played”s and sizzling renditions of some old favorites.




CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG – CSNY 1974 (box set)
You will believe a folk-rock band can play stadiums!  My musical loyalty still lies mostly with the Neil Young part of the equation.

GOV’T MULE – Dark Side of the Mule
From a Halloween show recorded in Boston, 2008.  Bear in mind, this is not a re-creation of any one Pink Floyd album, but rather their catalog.

GRATEFUL DEAD – Wake Up to Find Out

Part of the Spring 1990 series, this show, from 3/29/90 at Nassau Coliseum, is the first time Branford Marsalis played with the Dead.

the KINKS – Muswell Hillbillies

This is a great early-70s Kinks recording.  Apparently a great many rockers tried their hand at cowboy music back then.

LED ZEPPELIN – Live at the Olympia

There are so few good recordings of Led Zeppelin live that any releases are cause for celebration.  This show was broadcast on French radio in 1969.

Well, that’s all until next year! Stay toasty and keep jamming (^_^)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome list of things I must check out!