Friday, January 2, 2015

My Favorite Music of 2014

And now the other shoe drops with the alluded-to second year-end post, this one about the music I enjoyed the most during 2014. Please note that I am not implying this music is new (i.e. released in 2014) just that it's new to me.

The highlight of 2014 for me in music was the remastered version of 1993's live album damage by David Sylvian. An absolutely enthralling performance featuring Robert Fripp's bright guitar accenting and slicing like the proverbial hot knife through the buttery richness of Sylvian's lyrics and vocal performance.

I must've been living under a rock to have not heard about this recording for 20 years. Thank goodness Trey Gunn (or was it Pat Mastelotto?) posted about it on Facebook. The two of them were in the band with Fripp and Sylvian along with Michael Brook on Guitar.

I could listen to this for days and in fact I did when I discovered it on YouTube before buying the CD.

Wave may be my favorite track on the album. Here it is.

Another live (or at least partly live) performance that made itself at home in my brain this year was Supercollider by Stick Men.

As I wrote at the time, this is the album to purchase if you are new to Stick Men (Tony Levin, Markus Reuter, Pat Mastelotto). As indicated by the album's subtitle (Anthology: 2010-2014) the first disc consists of a "best of compilation" of tracks from their previous albums.

But the gem for me was disc 2, a collection of live improvisations by the band from their DEEP tour in 2013. "My God - it's full of stars!"

In the live performance below of their song Whale Watch you will experience what I characterize as their elegant power.

Which brings me to these lovable knuckleheads, The Aristocrats, and their Culture Clash album.

In the same way that Monty Python can effortlessly and seamlessly blend absurd physical comedy, Schopenhauer, and Cardinal Richelieu into an iconic performance that stands the test of time, Guthrie Govan, Marco Minnemann, and Bryan Beller perform some of the best instrumental jazz, rock, blues, pop, metal progressive I've ever heard and do so with equally high degrees of musicianship, aplomb, and humor. (Wait until you see/hear them performing on squeaky rubber toy animals and cell phones.)

I could have listened to their performances for days and each time pick out a new riff that I never noticed before. They manage to play complex music in a way that doesn't sound complicated and is, in fact, incredibly pleasing.

Here for example, is the band performing the song Culture Clash live.

Honorable mention goes to the Elements box set from King Crimson's recent tour.

Lest you think I'm short-changing the godfather of all progressive rock bands (Mr. Fripp) by relegating this work to only "honorable mention" status, I enjoy a good compilation of alternate tracks from a band's career as much as the next guy. But what I yearn for is new stuff.
What's Coming in 2015

On the topic of new stuff, I hear that many new things are coming in 2015. In late January King Crimson's Live at the Orpheum from their recent tour will be released. I've already pre-ordered The Aristocrats' Culture Clash Live. Steven Wilson's Hand. Cannot. Erase. is due out in February. It looks like the 3rd album from Naked Truth is coming in September. Who knows what else the new year will bring?

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