Good morning people of Middle Earth! After hearing from a bunch of our friends this past week, it's time for us Spanspek guys to share our favorite music of 2014! In case you don't know who we are, fear not, we'll tell you! Israel Flores and myself (Cristobal Carrillo) are the founders of the Spanspek Music and Arts Festival, an event held annually in Orosi, CA that celebrates locally created music and art, and which raises money for high school scholarships, artist commissions, and local music concerts. We're also musicians active in the Fresno area (Israel with alt-latino band Macondo, Cristobal with garage trio Werebear).
We'll share our favorite local music with a couple of posts next week. For now, here's a list of our favorite 2014 "National" releases.
ISRAEL'S PICKS[Editor's Note: Izzo isn't too fond of making "Best of" lists, so instead he provided a sample of some of the stuff he enjoyed this year.]
Ana TijouxVengo (Nacional)
French/Chilean hip hop female MC continues with her unmistakable delivery and talk of political conflict while holding on to the great musical character that caught my attention back in 2010 with "1977".
Calle 13Multiviral (El Abismo)
Calle 13 contains my favorite Spanish MC, in combination with a superb and underrated producer. Together they create songs that are popular while still maintaining street cred. Even if you remove all political connotations from the album, you still have poetic melodies with expert delivery.
HomeshakeIn the Shower (Sinderlyn/Bad Actors Inc.)
Unpolished, almost lo-fi sweet sexyness. What else could you ask for?
Rival SonsGreat Western Valkyrie (Earache)
An act that wears their influences proudly on their sleeve. "How could you love me. When you know where I've been."
Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)
The following will not make sense: Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Isaak, and David Bowie mixed in a Cuisinart processor. After the mixture is baked, an executive from Paramount Pictures asks that it be made into the soundtrack for an 80's movie about love and loss starring a young farmer who becomes an astronaut. Songs like "Suffering" and "In Reverse" make great use of an initial space to breathe...on earth or in outer space.
Released in 2013. Polished take on beach/wave anthems to crystal clear Doo Wop
Sunset Mission (Wonder)
Released in 2000. Prowler, Midnight Walker, everything! Sweet almost subconscious listening with focus. I may have more plays on this album while working than any other.
CRISTOBAL'S PICKSI on the other hand LOVE making lists. It's mad fun yo! That said, I listened to a lot more local music than I did national stuff this year, so this ain't exactly a comprehensive list, or one packed with new discoveries for that matter. It was mostly a year of checking in on former favorite bands and streaming anything on NPR Music. In any case, I think the picks are worth a listen or two!
Piñata (Madlib Invazion)I came for Madlib's unequaled production, and stayed for Freddie Gibbs street level tales. "Thuggin" in particular is beautifully crafted, with harp like guitars engulfing Gibbs description of a life devoted to the "science of the street." A soulful and gritty LP perfect for late night cruises in a smoke filled car.
El Pintor (Matador / Soft Limit)
Some say this is a return to form for the New York now trio, and I'd have to agree. There's nothing here that's a revelation per se, but for those that have remained faithful to the dark hearted rock of these well dressed men, there's plenty to enjoy. "My Blue Supreme" is an easy going number that deserves to be considered alongside past classics like "PDA" and "Evil".
Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture / Mom and Pop)I didn't know what to make of this band when I first heard Light Up Gold, and I still kinda don't. Minimalist constructions and spoken word somehow produce deceptively simple and addicting punk tunes. Hell, the title track is pretty much one chord strummed into infinity. And it is amazing! Parquet Court is truly one of a kind.
Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)
The most important hip hop duo in the game. Killer Mike and El-P are an unbeatable team that hit hard with rhymes and beats alike. And at a time when multitudes gather to protest recent and persistent racial injustices, Run the Jewels act as a musical Malcolm X; shedding light on inequality (see the heartrending "Early"), and urging action by any means necessary.
Meatbodies (In the Red)The debut from these Ty Segall disciples packs a wallop! Every song is big and brash and kicks the living shit out of everything in its way. "Disorder" is a delight, it's ceaseless strums devolving into a decaying moan. This album is tailor made for drummers who think they're guitarists.
Never Hungover Again (Epitaph)What I've heard from my more punk minded friends is that Never Hungover Again is a HUGE departure for punk band Joyce Manor. No matter; at a slim 19 minutes the disc packs more delightful hooks than your average aging rockers bloated double LP. This was my first time experiencing the band, so I can't say whether or not the claims of a massive stylistic change are valid. However, if they are true, you have to admire a band that subverts it's past in order to create something wholly unique. In the case of Never Hungover Again, the results of such a departure speak for themselves.
Everyday Robots (Parlophone / Warner Bros. / XL)
I came to this album expecting songs in the vein of Albarns work with Gorillaz. What I got instead was a melancholy treatise on humanity's increasing disconnect with itself. While I didn't like it at first, Everyday Robots grew on me with every spin. This is Albarn at his most personal, and it is a beauty to behold.
Everything Will Be Alright In the End (Republic)
Another return to form from another former favorite band, one which I'd written off long ago. The sweating, eager to please Rivers Cuomo has been banished, dethroned at last by the songwriter responsible for "Buddy Holly" and "Only In Dreams". Hooks abound, snug within well constructed odes to getting back to what made the band such alt-darlings in the first place.
Manipulator (Drag City)
When I first began my "rock education" in the late 90's (thank you Nirvana's cover of "Man Who Sold the World"), I knew one thing: rock (i.e. grunge) was serious business. NO DANCING ALLOWED. And that was cool, but man, when rock grooves, as every song in Manipulator does, it hits some delicious sweet spots. This is finely orchestrated grunge/punk that is comfortable getting down with its bad self.
If it wasn't for Letterman and the smooth moves of vocalist Samuel T. Herring I never would have had the pleasure of being blown away by lead track "Seasons (Waiting On You)" and the rest of this amazing album. The bands synthpop textures and bubbling beats inspire all level of dancing tomfoolery, while Herring's croon, and occasional growls, captivate throughout. An amazing listen from front to end.
La Isla Bonita (Polyvinyl)
St. Vincent (Loma Vista)
Beyoncé"XO"Beyoncé (Parkwood / Columbia)
This came out in December 2013, but come on man, this song rules! All hail Queen Bey.
Charli XCX“Boom, Clap”Sucker (Asylum / Atlantic / Neon Gold)It is wrong to believe that Charli XCX is the Gwen Stefani of the new decade? Cause I think this song makes a strong argument for that conclusion.
Bay area natives with a dark and moody heart, executing at a fast clip. Sunglasses and black outfits mandatory.
Ex Hex"Waste Your Time"Rips (Merge)
Good ass garage rock with propulsive bass, Cheap Trick guitar, and Mary Timony's reverbed out vox. Let the head bobbing commence!
Hallways (Stones Throw)
Contemplative hip hop concerning the scheduling/hipster related problems of New York native and indie rap hero Angel Del Villar II. Track producer Knxwledge's bottle and piano manipulated beat transfixes.
Tough Love (PRM / Island / Interscope)
Syncopated synths, hand clap accented percussion, and Ware's angelic voice make cruelty sound way too cool. "Actions speak louder than the words you sowed."
By this point, it should be pretty obvious now that if you are a female fronted band with a badass synth or guitar game, you're gonna make my year end list. This track just bumps hard. Certified club banger man.
See, I told you! It's like my catnip! St. Vincent is a beast on guitar, but this song shines more for the beautifully haunting melody at the center of it all. I literally can't help but sing along everytime I hear it, stretching my arms out to an unseen audience, praying to be "a son of someone". It's a powerful composition.
“Under the Pressure”
Lost In the Dream (Secretly Canadian)
Izzo summed this up pretty well earlier in the post. This song feels like driving cornfields, in search of something or someone my small town can't give. Elegantly arranged for maximum nostalgia.
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***Whew! That was a long one! Thanks as always for reading! We'll be back next week with our "Favorite Local Music" lists! It's gonna be super legit!