Band of the year

It’s been an astonishing 12 months of music, and no doubt you’ve read most of the highlights in the music press, butI found it really hard this year to choose a favorite album of 2014. I suppose the obvious choice is Mark Kozelek. Sun Kil Moon had a wild year, Benji is featured in all the end-of-year round ups (but usually beaten by, err, war on drugs) yet somehow, despite this public affection – at least of the music if not of Kozelek himself – it’s not my favorite. I prefer “Among the Leaves” and “Perils from the sea” both from 2013 which I think are the best things he’s done in years. I saw Kozelek play in Brighton earlier this year and the show was so enchanting it was easily the best concert of the year. But best album? No.

I am giving another kind of award this time. The best band of the year, and it goes to Kathleen Hanna and her band Julie Ruin. If you have not seen the incredible documentary “the punk singer”  (released this year in the UK) you’re missing a rare glimpse in the sheer awesomeness and determination of this American lady. feminism is still all important, but the Julie Ruin now have broadened that to fight for human dignity. She suffers from a major health problem, in fact had to cancel a big tour this year due to it, but her husband looks after and stands by her. She is married to Adam Horovitz and I don’t know, after Thurston Moore turned out to be such a phony, she and Ad-Rock are quite an inspiration for people like me who have been happily married since the early 00’s. 🙂

Here’s “one of my kind” which came out in March. Love songs still matter in 2014.

See you next year.

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EP of the year

We’ve gone into the woods today and I cut down a beautiful Christmas tree, it might not survive until Christmas but it’s only  4 weeks until we fly away for a week from Southend Airport (I don’t get along with big airports much), and only 4 weeks until 2015.

So it’s time for my little musical review of the year. Suffice to say there won’t be any lameness like war on drugs (“I hate that beer commercial shit”) who for some reason seem to be everybody’s number one this year. Yawn. If you prefer something a little more sublime, something that will give you goosebumps and give you a little bit of hope then you’re in the right place! Every week I’ll be choosing my favorite EP, video, single, and album of 2014 and writing a short paragraph about why, and far more importantly, give you a chance to listen (or watch!) and indulge yourself in radical sounds.

So, first up – EP of 2014. This year it actually could be contender for album of the year, if not best EP I’ve heard since Belle and Sebastian “Dog on Wheels”. It’s Sarah Winchester “Northeast Kingdom” which came out this year on Team Love/Mt Home Arts and I think it’s the most played piece of music I’ve bought. Six songs, each one a masterpiece. This doesn’t happen very often, believe me. Sarah use to be in a weather (who, probably not surprisingly, released my favorite album of 2009) and these tender songs just capture the essence of human fragility and the need for emotional warmth and loneliness in a way not that dissimilar to Mark Kozelek. I think there’s some a few cassettes left, if not you can download it, and just let her sweet voice and melodies take you far far away to a place where the herons fly free. More info here.

https://soundcloud.com/mthomearts/sets/sarah-winchester-northeast

next week – video of the year.

the mark kozelek show featuring war on drugs

It’s crazy warm here in Sussex, pretty much November now but the leaves are still all green and aside from the usual rainy day wipe outs it feels more like July…wait a minute, isn’t that a Dashboard Confessional song?  Anyway, autumn’s a good time to reflect on change and I usually write a few poems about hope falling fast, just to cheer myself up…

Which brings me nicely to Mark Kozelek and that whole thing with war on drugs. For those lucky enough not to know anything about it, I won’t bore you with the details here, but Kozelek’s released two “diss tracks” about the war on drugs guy who in turn seems to be super offended and music websites which are silly enough to allow comments are full with people saying how much that hate Mark Kozelek and make some awful remarks about him having “mental health issues” and that they won’t ever listen to him again.

Still I said it before and I’ll say it again, Kozelek can do whatever he likes because he is the most interesting, creative and talented musician of our generation. Nobody can touch him, if I could only listen to one cd it would of course be a red house painters or sun kil moon one (the bands he’s fronted). I even paid a ridiculous amount of money on ebay to get an out of print Spanish edition of his poems/songs. I listen to his msic more than anything else.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole. Back in 2001 I went with a girl to a red house painters concert. She was shocked and offended by his stage antics and the way he talked about “chicks” and going to bars to “pick up girls”. She said afterwards she would never listen to his sweet lullaby tender love songs anymore. I have no idea if she’s kept that up because shortly afterwards I met my future wife, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I don’t know why though. Back in my freelance journalism days I wrote a few pieces about literary heroes of mine – Jack Kerouac and William Faulkner. They weren’t the “nicest” people. I’m reading this biography of JD Salinger, he also wasn’t a nice guy but any stretch of the imagination. Then there’s Hemingway, a guy I wouldn’t want to cross he’d tear me apart.  Where does it say your heroes have to be nice, friendly, kind, caring, loveable?

So you could say all those examples are men, and you might have a point it can get too much. I never got that macho stuff, it bores me, and as much as I like to pretend I feel “connected” to these writers I couldn’t see myself hanging out with them as such. Not even Kerouac. I’m way too soft.

It’s like that with Mark Kozelek. He’s a complicated person, he can’t fit into some box of what’s “cool” or what’s “socially acceptable”. He’s been an outsider all his life, and just listen to any of his songs to get a glimpse of his genius. Like the best writers and artists though he’s troubled. I do think it’s funny the way he responds, but it’s also kind of nuts too, but it’s the way it has to be.