Category Archives: End Of Year

Dave Steinfeld’s 2019 In Review


Longtime BLURT contributor Prof. Steinfeld weighs in on the year that’s just about done. Picks to click: Amanda Palmer (pictured above), Durand Jones, The Monroes, Tom Petty, Natalie Walker, and more.


Top 10 Albums of 2019:

  1. Amanda Palmer — There Will Be No Intermission (8 Foot Records/Cooking Vinyl) 

These days, it’s easy to throw around phrases like “his/her most personal work to date.” But in Amanda Palmer’s case, if anything, this is an understatement. There Will Be No Intermission is Palmer’s first solo outing in nearly seven years — and it indeed her most personal work to date. Palmer throws it all out there on Intermission: losing her best friend to cancer, talking another friend through an abortion, not to mention being a new Mom in these apocalyptic times. It adds up to a song cycle about loss that can be harrowing at times but is ultimately uplifting. There is no one else like Amanda Palmer — not in the music she makes, not in the way she delivers that music to the public.  


  1. Durand Jones & the Indications — American Love Call (Dead Oceans)

If you didn’t know better, you’d swear that Durand Jones & the Indications recorded this album in the early ‘70s. This Indiana-based band has already perfected the kind of soul that The Delfonics and The Stylistics popularized back then. It doesn’t hurt that they have two lead singers (Jones and Aaron Frazer) whose voices compliment each other. This album is comprised mainly of love songs, but there are a couple of moments — like “Morning in America”— where the band tackles more topical material with fine results.


  1. The Monroes — The Monroes 2.0 (Tugboat Music)

The Monroes are best known for their 1982 hit “What Do All the People Know,” one of the great songs of the New Wave era. Now, frontman Bob Monroe returns with a new album and lineup more than three decades after the fact. The resulting album confirms that he had more than one great song in him.  2.0 covers a lot of ground — from the radio-friendly rocker “Midnight in Hollywood” to the unabashedly vulnerable ballad “Made for You” to the Beatlesque pop song “Tell Me Tonight.” Then there’s the great opening track, “White Lace and Blue Jeans,” an ode to a woman who is “sometimes wild and crazy, sometimes so austere.” File under “Comeback of the Year.”


  1. Mary Lambert — Grief Creature (Tender Heart Records)

Mary Lambert came to prominence in 2012 when she sang the hook of Macklemore’s #1 hit “Same Love”  — one of the few hip-hop songs to support same sex marriage. Her own music couldn’t be further from hip-hop, though. Lambert is a singer-songwriter who writes on piano. Grief Creature is her first album since 2014 and it’s a great one, tackling everything from breakups (from both sides of the coin) to living with bipolar disorder to surviving rape. It It’s a testimony to Lambert that she can cram 17 tracks onto an album and not overstay her welcome.


  1. FKA Twigs —  Magdalene (Young Turks)

Magdalene is the long-awaited sophomore set from English artist Tahliah Barnett (better known as FKA Twigs) — and it was worth the wait. This is a concise masterpiece, drawing equally from Kate Bush and urban music. The album’s centerpiece is a haunting meditation on Mary Magdalene, repurposed for the trip-hop age.


  1. The Highwomen  (Elektra)

The Highwomen are a country-rock supergroup — a female answer to ‘80s band The Highwaymen. The women in question are Brandi Carlisle, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby. Each of the four gets at least one moment in the spotlight on their self-titled debut, and the album is alternately introspective and rocking. 


  1. The Jellybricks  — Some Kind of Lucky (Wicked Cool Records)  

The latest disc from this veteran Pennsylvania-based band is straightforward power pop. The Jellybricks aren’t reinventing the wheel, but on songs like “Corner of My Eye” and “Mrs. Misery,” they polish that wheel until it shines.


  1. Joslyn & the Sweet Compression  (Robert Hall Records)

Joslyn & the Sweet Compression are another band — like Durand Jones & the Indications — that specializes in classic soul of the ‘70s variety.  Joslyn Hampton sings her heart out on originals and a surprise cover of George Harrison’s “Long Long Long,” and the Sweet Compression provides great backup.


  1.   Rickie Lee Jones — Kicks (TOSOD Music)  

The latest album from Rickie Lee Jones is a collection of covers (her fourth). This time around, she interprets songs that were popularized by a wide variety of artists — from Dean Martin to Bad Company to Elton John.


  1. Vince Gill — Okie (MCA Nashville)

Veteran country artist (and sometime Eagle) Vince Gill hits a late-career peak on this extremely personal album.


Top 5 Compilations/Reissues:  

  1. Tom Petty — The Best of Everything (Universal/Geffen)


  1. Various Artists — 1977: The Year Punk Broke! (Cherry Red)


  1. Various Artists — Electrical Language: Independent British Synth-Pop ’78 — ’84 (Cherry Red)


  1. New England —   The New England Archives, Vol.1 (HNE Recordings/Cherry Red)


  1. The Rolling Stones — HONK (Universal/Interscope)


Top 5 EPs:  

  1. Natalie Walker — Evenfall


  1. Rogers & Butler — Diana Dors


  1. Puss N’ Boots — Dear Santa


  1. Emily Mure — Sad Songs and Waltzes 


  1. Jesse Terry & Alex Wong — Kivalina

In Memoriam: 

Scott Walker, Ric Ocasek, Eddie Money, Ranking Roger, Ginger Baker, Marie Fredriksson, Dave Bartholomew, Andre Previn, Dr. John, Mark Hollis, James Ingram, Peter Tork, Hal Blaine, Keith Flint, Johnny Clegg, Larry Wallis… And so it goes.


Best Instrumental Album:  Bruce Cockburn: Crowing Ignites  (True North Records)

Best Concert:  Amanda Palmer at Joe’s Pub, NYC

Best New Artist:  Durand Jones & the Indications

Hype of the Year: Billie Eilish

2020 Release I’m Most Looking Forward To:  Drive-By Truckers — The Unraveling

Favorite Piece for Blurt:   Glen Matlock: From the Pistols To Palestine!

Wildcard/Summary:  Where do I begin? Women clearly ruled the year in 2019. Six of my Top 10 new releases and three of my Top five EPs were made by women or female-fronted bands. 

Unlike a lot of my peers, I still believe there is a ton of great music being made. The difference is that you can’t find most of it through the old channels. Record stores continue to struggle, while radio stations (commercial ones, at least) are all owned by Clear Channel and like-minded corporations who don’t know shit about music and don’t care to learn about it. So you really have to seek the good music out — which can be challenging. But it’s there and it’s being made by artists young and old, male and female, black and white, straight and gay, and everything in between. And these days — when we’re dealing not only with our own personal issues and losses but also with the collapse of our environment and the most divisive President of our lifetimes — it’s more important to seek out good music (and good art in general) than it ever has been.


25 Pieces of Christmas Music to Actually Enjoy in 2019


Guarantee: No Mariah Carey fans were harmed during the making of this column. Check out some cool videos at the bottom, too. And yes, the photo above was grabbed off the web. Meanwhile, below, Jason Gross, a longtime BLURT contributor, is also the editor/publisher/majordomo of Perfect Sound Forever, the internet’s greatest-ever music magazine. Yeah, he was and always will be an early adopter. Accept no substitutes. Listen to his picks on Spotify right HERE. 


But first, a standalone single pick from the editor:

Let’s get into it, kids. Tell the parents to let you stay up late tonight. Ranging from classical to mash-up to indie to country to ‘hood pop’ to boy band to folk to art rock, there was plenty of variety and quality in 2019 Xmas music to choose from.  As for the controversy over John Legend’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” aren’t there more important, substantial things to get pissed over? Yes, there are.

  1. The 5 Browns Christmas With the 5 Browns (Steinway and Sons) In theory, this sibling group of Mormons sounds like they’d be the Osmonds of the classical world. But by taking tried and true holiday classics that even non-classical slobs like me know well (especially “The Nutcracker Suite”) and arranging them for a bunch of pianos (presumably Steinway’s), they craft a lovely album you can enjoy with your parents, grandparents, etc.
  2. Amerigo Gazaway “Notorious B.I.G. – Christmas Time In Crooklyn” (Bandcamp) The great mash-up master takes Biggie’s “Juicy” and layers it on top of holiday schmaltz, creating something hip, nostalgic, old-school and new at the same time. Also see his holiday album remixes.
  3. Big Stick Sauced Up Santa (Fortes Music) John Gill is a raunchy never-say-die indie artist who once howled about hot rods over womping drum beats but here grumbles like Tom Waits and adds on a kiddie choir. Modern Family‘s patriarch Jay Pritchett once marveled that Waits’ voice could be beautiful and horrible at the same time. Ditto for Gill. End result: the unlikeliest children’s record in recent memory.
  4. Bleached “Single Bells” (Amazon) Courtesy of the elves at the online giant, a joyous indie/grrl stomp in honor of Santa.
  5. Wade Bowen Twelve Twenty-Five (Bowen Sounds) Technically, it’s a country Xmas party (you can tell by the twang of the guitars and voice) but it’s almost as much of a soul Xmas, which definitely ain’t a bad thing. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” does right by Darlene Love and you can more easily stand to hear his version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” than Mariah’s by now.
  6. Molly Burch “Last Christmas” (Captured Tracks) Her whole Christmas Album is sweet and low-key but this is a particular highlight, especially with its goofy, funny video.
  7. Ceraadi “Christmas With You” (Roc Nation) This L.A. ‘hood pop’ group (yep, that’s a thing) imagines Xmas as a time for twerking in the kitchen and drinking games. Definitely a better time than the holiday office party you’ll be forced to go to.
  8. Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld “Bury Me With My Guitar On” (Wildflowers) Courtesy of the folkie legend, Chatham County Line and Norwegian singer/songwriter Fjeld comes this high-stepping country/bluegrass tune with some fatalism for the holiday.
  9. Lucy Dacus “Last Christmas” (Merge) By now, the Wham song is such a standard that even cover songs of it are standard for this time of year, so give the normally-downbeat Dacus credit for revving it up to indie rock speed, adding in a moshing finale.
  10. The Flaming Lips “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” (Warner Bros) Leave it to these lovable Midwest space cadets who graced us with cult film Christmas On Mars to remake the song that Bing/Bowie made (in)famous and mash it up with another Xmas classic. Maybe it’s their bizarre/perverse sense of humor that made them dress up like Hindu gods there.
  11. Rob Halford Celestial (Legacy) Just in case you haven’t been keeping track, this is actually the 2nd holiday album from the Judas Priest frontman- first was 2009’s Halford III: Winter Songs. You’ll either head bang or laugh along or annoy the hell out of your friends (or all of the above). You definitely won’t be bored, any way it turns out.  Especially gnarly: “Donner and Blitzen” who sound like rampaging huns and “Deck the Halls” which get a demonish “fa-la-la-la” chorus.
  12. Jonas Brothers “Like It’s Christmas” (Universal) Even if you’re not a fan of the recently-reunited trio of heart-throb brothers, you have to give them their due for pulling off a swinging holiday pop tune that you’d actually wanna hear more than once.
  13. Keb’ Mo’ Moonlight, Mistletoe & You (Concord) Though you’d wish that a holiday album from this noted bluesman was a little less sentimental, he does bring soul to the proceedings (“Better Everyday”), makes a blues standard like “Please Come Home For Christmas” upbeat and gets the music downhome now and then (“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” Merry, Merry Christmas”). Plus, you just can’t argue with “Christmas Is Annoying.”
  14. Los Lobos Llego Navidad (Rhino) Christmas en español! This great roots rock band hasn’t fully returned to its Spanish roots since 1988’s La Pistola y El Corazón and there hasn’t been a holiday album like this which stood a chance of breaking out to a multicultural audience since the 70’s- not just Jose Felciano but also Fania Records’ wonderful Asalto Navideno collection. And yes, of course we get “Feliz Navidad” but everything else here is a joy too.  I mean, how could you say no to a delightful Tex-Mex tune like “It’s Christmas Time In Texas”?
  15. Kacey Musgraves The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show (MCA Nashville) Probably the only new Xmas special you need to watch this holiday, the show loses some of its silly appeal without the visuals but even then you’ll have no problem digging the bouncy “Ribbons and Bows” finale and a Hawaiian duet with Zooey Deschanel that definitely ain’t trad fare, though it should be. And FYI, it’s actually her 2nd Xmas album after 2016’s A Very Kacey Christmas.
  16. Ne-Yo Another Kind of Christmas (Motown) A nice R&B joint and you gotta love the ladies here- Candice Boyd’s “Carol of the Bells” and Satori’s “Christmas VIbez.” He even does a nice blues turn and doesn’t make you regret he covered “The Christmas Song” (which is a feat by now). But what might be most notable is that it’s one of the few holiday albums not made to be offensive that comes with an explicit song- “Talk About It,” which drops an N-bomb along with ‘shit.’ Cool tune but don’t expect to hear it at family singalongs.
  17. Mark Peters Winterland (Sonic Cathedral) This Brit ambient master is no stranger to the holiday spirit- check out his 2018 take on “Jingle Bells” and 2017’s “Silent Night.” After improving the already-impressive Innerland with a beat-less version, he comes home for the holidays to collect the two aforementioned titles along with his own tune “The Box Of Delights,” which sounds like a music box gone nutty before drifting off blissfully.
  18. A Prog Rock Christmas (Purple Pyramid) Not a new bunch of tunes but a varied collection from the past few decades. It’s as perverse as the Halford album and a lot better than you’d expect. Sure, there’s plenty of over-singing but “Christmas Lights” has drunken Elvis impersonators,  “Carol of the Bells” is something you could almost head bang to, “Fairytale of New York” sounds fine without Shane’s croak, one of the Buggles/Yes guys wisely keeps “Linus and Lucy” (from the Peanuts) in a jazzy tone, a pair of Hawkwind refugees give up a spacey “Silent Night” and you get Malcolm McDowell howling the Grinch song as a wonderful ringer.
  19. The Regrettes “Holiday-ish” (Warner Bros) Though this pop-punk group is turning into much more of the former and much less of the latter, they land in a nice place for an adorable heart-warmer of a jaunty tune with some help from Dylan Minnette (from Netflix’s 13 Reasons).
  20. Josh Rouse “Heartbreak Holiday” (Yep Roc) His Holiday Sounds album is soft rock that isn’t soft in the head. Even if that’s too mellow for your taste, you’ll be hard pressed to deny this catchy little pop song that evokes Nick Lowe and manages to sound cheerful even when he’s taking back his ex-lovers’ presents and wonders if she’s doing the same.
  21. Lionel Scardino “Navidad” (1631 Recordings) Clocking in at a neat 2:22, it doesn’t sound like the Spanish classic but you do get a gentle piano refrain that sounds like snow falling softly outside.
  22. The School Christmas EP (Elefant) This Cardiff band starts with pop-punk and ends up with two pieces of 60’s girl group pop, with three originals clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes. Sweet and effecting, especially on “It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without You,” which deserves to be a future standard.
  23. Tim Story “Silent Cycles” (Curious Music) This Philly soundtrack composer and Cluster collaborator starts out with looped bits of “Silent Night” and then stretches it out with gentle. shimmering ambient drones and synth-choirs. By the time he reaches an album-length 73-minutes, he’s made the little old carol into something majestic and cosmic.
  24. Sharon Van Etten “Silent Night” (Amazon) Yet another reason Jeff Bezos hopes that you sign up for his music service. This alone might not warrant the monthly fee but this rising indie-folk star turns the standard into a beautifully spooky chant that you should hear at least once.
  25. Rick Wakeman Christmas Portraits (Sony Classical) Granted, this art rock codger and master of excess might be the last person you’d wanna hear Xmas music from, but here, he wisely pares it down to just him tinkling away on a piano, playing the trad pre-Tin Pin Alley Xmas classics. Other than a few fancy flourishes, the result is surprisingly simple and charming. Maybe his label can convince him to lay off the synths in the future.


REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2016


What stood out in the music world for 2016? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: our Artist of the Year, Angel Olsen (photo by Amanda Marsalis) – view an Olsen video, below, along with a clip from our Album of the Year, David Bowie’s


It’s like déjà vu all over again: For our 2016 year-end wrap-up we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for the year that just ended. Note that if you want to contact any member of our staff, their contact emails can be found below or at our “Contact” page. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the site we have our annual feature “Farewell: Music Passings” to pay tribute to those we lost in 2016.

Watch the video for Angel Olsen’s remarkable track “Sister,” from her equally remarkable 2016 album My Woman.

Watch the video for David Bowie’s chilling track “Lazarus,” from BLURT’s 2016 Album Of the Year, Blackstar


Also check out our 2012, 2013, 2014and 2015 coverage:

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2015

Farewell: Music World Passings 2015

2014 In Review: Blurt’s Top 100 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2014

Farewell: Music World Passings 2014

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012



John B. Moore / Philadelphia

Top 10 Albums:

Parker Millsap (above) – The Very Last Day
Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want
Shovels & Rope – Little Seeds
Logan Lynn – Adieu
Seth Walker – Gotta Get Back
Dinosaur Jr.  – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
Big Eyes – Stake My Claim
Brett Newski – Land Sea Air Garage
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
toyGuitar – Move Like a Ghost


Crowded House – Crowded House, Temple of Low Men, Woodface, Together Alone, Afterglow (Vinyl Reissues)
Big Star – Complete Third
Mike Watt – Ring Spiel Tour ‘95
The Rave Ups – Town + Country
Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band – Live at Grumpy’s


Music Books

My Damage – Keith Morris
Big Star – Isolated in the Light – Carole Manning
The Road Beneath My Feet – Frank Turner
Under the Big Black Sun – John Doe
The Cured – Lol Tolhurst

Dumbest Band Name: There have been a lot of great band names over the years that reference cult or even obscure movies (Black Sabbath, The Misfits, They Might Be Giants), but there is also a whole generation of bands who have started referencing wildly popular movies in their monikers that just comes off as ridiculously lame. Here’s are a few of the recent top offenders:

Say Anything
The Devil Wears Prada (and a Christian metal band, no less)
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! (an actual line from The Goonies)
Save Ferris (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)


Notable Deaths (Fuck you 2016!)

David Bowie
Leon Russell




Lee Zimmerman / Maryville Tennessee

 Top Ten:

Dawes — We’re All Gonna Die (HUB)
Bob Delevante — Valley of Days (Bright Star)
Blind Pilot — And the Like Lions (ATO)
Avett Brothers — True Sadness (Republic)
Jack Ingram — Midnight Motel (Rounder)
Low Anthem — Eyeland (Razor & Tie)
Fallon Cush — Bee in Your Bonnet (independent)
Pines — Above the Prairie (Red House)
Robert Ellis — self-titled (New West)
Reckless Kelly — Sunset Motel (No Big Deal)

Best Box Sets/Reissues:

Bob Dylan — The1966 Live Recordings (Legacy)
Otis Redding — Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Volt)
Queen — On Air (Virgin)
Tori Amos — Boys for Pele (Rhino)
Trio (Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Rondstadt) — The Complete Trio Collection (Rhino)
Jimi Hendrix — Machine Gun (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)
Jack White — Acoustic Recordings (Third Man)
Jethro Tull – Stand Up – The Elevated Edition (Chrysalis)
Doors — London Fog (Rhino)
Jigsaw Seen — For the Discriminating Completist (Burger)

Best Concert:

Dawes — Bijou Theater (Knoxville TN)
The Mavericks — Rhythm and Roots Festival (Knoxville TN)
Dave Rawlings Machine — Bijou Theater (Knoxville TN)
Nick Lowe — Bijou Theater (Knoxville TN)
Webb Wilder — Sweet Pea’s (Knoxville TN)
Paul Thorn — The Shed (Maryville TN)

Best Music DVDs:

Everly Brothers — Harmonies (Eagle)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Circlin’ Back – Celebrating 50 Years (NGDB)
Rolling Stones — Havana Moon (Universal)
Joan Armatrading – Me Myself I – World Tour Concert (429)
Various Artists – TAMI Show/The Big TNT Show (Shout)
Frank Sinatra — All or Nothing At All (Universal)
The Who — Live at Shea Stadium 1982 (Eagle)
Burt Bacharach — A Life In Song (Eagle/Universal)
Justin Haywood — Live In Concert at the Capitol Theatre (independent)

Most Tragic Death: Every single one of them — Bowie, Prince, Keith Emerson, Paul Kantner, Guy Clark, Greg Lake, George Michael, George Martin – how can one say one loss is greater than another? This year simply sucked for the toll it took

Dumbest Band Name: Diarrhea Planet — Likely my pick from last year. Good luck getting airplay with that handle, boys. I can hear it now — some oldies station ten years from now proclaiming “Hey, kids… it’s gonna be a Diarrhea Planet Weekend!”

Worst Trend: This year, same as last year, same as the year before — the continued eradication of physical CDs – the lack of respect for the album as a complete physical art form, something to be held, cherished, appreciated in whole rather than just an amorphous entity that exists without form or function. I know it’s a losing battle, but damn it, I won’t give up. Bring back the album in physical form!



Tim Hinely / Denver, CO


Peter Astor- Spilt Milk (Slumberland)
Beverly- The Blue Swell (Kanine)
Musk- Musk 2: The Second Skumming (12XU)
Teenage Fanclub- Here (Merge)
Dot Dash – Searchlights (The Beautiful Music)
Whitney- Light Upon The Lake (Secretly Canadian)
Lucy Dacus- No Burden (Matador)
Connections- Midnight Run (Anyway)
Ultimate Painting- Dusk (Trouble in Mind)
The Monochrome Set- Cosmonaut (Tapete )
Overlord- The Well-Tempered Overlord (Storm Tower)
Red Sleeping Beauty- Kristina (Labrador/ Shelflife)
Million Sellers- Sufficiently Rude (Wanda Records)
Dex Romweber- Carrboro (Bloodshot)
Empty Markets- Stainless Steel (12XU)
Tears Run Rings- In Surges (Deep Space Recordings)
Dinosaur Jr- Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar)
Car Seat Headrest- Teens of Denial (Matador)
The Well Wishers- Comes and Goes (Self Released)
Cat’s Eyes- Treasure House (Raf)
Chook Race – Around the House (Trouble in Mind)
The Holiday Crowd – S/T (Shelflife)
A Giant Dog- Pile (Merge)
Real Numbers- Wordless Wonders (Slumberland)
The City Yelps- The City Yelps Half Hour (Emotional Response/ Odd Box Recordings)
Rikk Agnew- Learn (Frontier)
E- S./T (Thrill Jockey)
Nots- Cosmetic (Goner/ Heavenly)
Great Lakes- Wild Vision (Loose Trucks)
Cavern of Anti-Matter- Void Beats/ Invocation Trex (Duophonic)
Sunflower Bean- Human Ceremony (Fart Possum)
Savages- Adore Life (Matador)
Nada Surf- You Know Who You Are (Barsuk)
The Twin Atlas- The Big Spring (self released)
The New Lines- Love & Cannibalism (Feral Child)
Sound of Ceres- Nostalgia for Infinity (Joyful Noise)
Blue Orchids- the once and Future Thing (tiny global)
James Arthur’s Manhunt- Digital Clubbing (12XU)
Kid Congo and the Pink Monkeybirds- La Arana Es la Vida  (In the Red)
EZTV- High in Places (Captured Tracks)


The Scientists- A Place Called Bad (Numero Group)
Aberdeen- It Was the Rain: Lost recordings 1993-1995 (Used Bin Pop)
Pylon- Live (Chunklet)
The Hollywood Brats- Sick on You (Cherry Red)
Queen Annes- Released! (Green Monkey)
Velvet Crush- Pre-Teen Symphonies (Omnivore)
The Bangles – Ladies and Gentlemen (Omnivore)
Tiny Tim – The Complete Singles Collections: 1966-1970 (The Now Sounds/ Cherry Red)
Tim Buckley- Wings (Omnivore)
Maureen Evans- Like I Do: The Sixties Recordings (Cherry Red)


The Chills- Kaleidoscope World (Flying Nun)
Sandra Bell- Dreams of Falling (Straight to Video)
The Fall- Hex Enduction Hour (Superior Viaduct)
The Summer Hits- Beaches and Canyons (Medical)
Game Theory- The Big Shot Chronicles (Omnivore)
Sneaks- Gymnastic (Merge)
Stick Men with Rayguns- Property of Jesus Christ (12XU)
Stick Men with Rayguns- 1,000 Lives to Die  (12XU)
Sciflyer- The Age of Lovely Intimate Things (Elephant Stone/ Tonevendor)The Flesh Eaters- Forever Came Today (Superior Viaduct)

 Eps/ 7”s

Pylon- Gravity/ Weather Radio – live (Chunklet)
Tony Molina –Confront the Truth (Slumberland)
Lush – Blind Spot (Edamame Records)
Deardarkhead- Strange Weather (Saint Marie Records)
Allen Clapp- Six Seasons (MLM)



Jeff Clegg / Durham, NC

Top Albums of 2016:

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia)
  2. Pinegrove – Cardinal (Run for Cover)
  3. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (Atlantic)
  4. Touché Amoré – Stage Four (Epitaph)
  5. Frank Ocean – Blonde (Boys Don’t Cry)
  6. Slothrust – Everybody Else (Dangerbird)
  7. Anderson .Paak – Malibu (Steel Wool)
  8. Into It. Over It. – Standards (Triple Crown)
  9. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!” (Glassnote)
    10. The Hotelier – Goodness (Tiny Engines)
    11. Jeff Rosenstock – (SideOneDummy)
    12. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)
    13. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)
    14. Lucy Dacus – No Burden (Matador/EggHunt)
    15. Drive-By Truckers – American Band (ATO)

Top Americana/Country Albums of 2016:

  1. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (Atlantic)
  2. Drive-By Truckers – American Band (ATO)
  3. Brent Cobb – Shine On Rainy Day (Low Country Sound/Elektra)
  4. Dwight Yoakam – Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars… (Sugar Hill)
  5. Hayes Carll – Lovers and Leavers (Hwy 87)
  6. Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day (Okrahoma)
  7. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (Third Man)
  8. John Prine – For Better, Or Worse (Oh Boy)
  9. Mount Moriah – How To Dance (Merge)
    10. Lydia Loveless – Real (Bloodshot)

Best Debut Album: Big Jesus – Oneiric (Mascot)



Daniel Matti / Raleigh, NC

Top 10 of 2016:

  1. Slothrust – Everyone Else (Dangerbird Records)
    2. Gucci Mane – Woptober (Atlantic Records)
    3. Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
    4. Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
    5. Agnes Obel – Citizen of Glass (PIAS America)
    6. Dinosaur Jr – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar)
    7. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)
    8. NxWorries – Yes Lawd! (Stones Throw)
    9. The Hotelier – Goodness (Tiny Engines)
    10. Old Gray- Slow Burn (Flower Girl Records)

Top 5 live shows of 2016:
1. Iggy Pop @ Austin City Limits in Austin, TX
2. Brand New/The Front Bottoms/Modern Baseball @ Eaglebank Arena in Fairfax, VA
3. Gucci Mane @ Winston Salem Fairgrounds in Winston Salem, NC
4. Danny Brown @ Cats Cradle in Carrboro, NC
5. Flume @ House of Blues in Boston, MA



Jason Gross / New York, NY


  1. Kanye West The Life of Pablo (GOOD/Def Jam)
  2. Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered. (Top Dawg)
  3. Various Artists God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson(Alligator)
  4. Prince Rama Xtreme Now (Car Park)
  5. Dear Eloise Uncontrollable, Ice Age Stories(Maybe Mars)
  6. Krokofant Krokofant II (Rune Grammofon)
  7. Margo Price Midwest Farmer’s Daughter(Third Man)
  8. Meghan Trainor Thank You(Epic)
  9. Dilla The Diary of J Dilla (Mass Appeal/Pay Jay)
    10. Roel Funcken & Various Artists Autotroph (Part 1) (Headphone Commute)

Reissues/archival titles:

  1. The Drifters Complete Releases 1953 -62 (Acrobat)
  2. The Feelies Time for a Witness (Bar/None)
  3. Various Artists Fact Magazine – The Best G -Funk Tracks of All Time (Spotify)
  4. Erik Satie and Friends Original Albums Collection (Sony Classical)
  5. Ornette Coleman To Whom Who Keeps a Record (Superior Viaduct)


  1. Nvdes “The Other Side” (B3SCI)
  2. Lemaitre “Stepping Stone [feat. Mark Johns]” (Astralwerks)
  3. Kendrick Lamar “Untitled 3” (Grammys)
  4. Skogsrå “Out of Time” (Good Soldier)
  5. Kovary “Hot With You” (No Definition)
  6. Unlike Pluto “Waiting For You (feat. Joanna Jones)” (Monstercat)
  7. Rachel Platten feat. Andy Grammer “Hey Hey Hallelujah” (Sony)
  8. Christon Gray “Stop Me” (Fo Yo Soul/RCA)
  9. Lushlife/CSLSX Featuring Deniro Farrar “Incantation” (Western Vinyl)
    10. Jean Tonique “Lit Up Feat. Dirty Radio” (Partyfine)


  1. “Die Fledermaus” at Metropolitan Opera, NYC – January 7
  2. “Winter Jazzfest,” various NYC clubs -January 15
  3. Iggy Pop at Austin City Limits, Texas – March 16
  4. Faust at Market Hotel, NYC – March 30
  5. Kamasi Washington/Sun Ra Arkestra/Pharaoh Sanders at Greenpoint Terminal, NYC – May 8
  6. “Other Music Forever” at Bowery Ballroom, NYC – June 28
  7. Lou Reed Tribute at Lincoln Center, NYC – July 30
  8. ELO at Radio City Music Hall, NYC – September 16
  9. Roots Picnic at Bryant Park, NYC – October 2
    10. Mary J Blige, Maxwell at Madison Square Garden, NYC – November 10


Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat
Randy Travis “Amazing Grace”
Heart, Michael Bolton, Usher, Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, John Mellencamp, Imagine Dragons “Don’t Use Our Songs”
Ho99o9 “Blood Waves”
Beyonce “Formation”


The Beatles – Eight Days A Week
Stooges – Gimme Danger
L7 – Pretend That We’re Dead
Last of the Mississippi Jukes
Bang – The Bert Berns Story

Music Books:

Danny Alexander Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige
Bruno Cerlotti Love Day -By -Day 1945 -1971
John Corbett A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation
Courtney Harding How We Listen Now: Essays and Conversations About Music and Technology
Bob Mehr Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements
James McBride Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul
Andy Partridge Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC
Ben Ratliff Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty

Villain of the year: Donald J. aka the Talking Yam

Best label:Bandcamp

Best facial hair: Nick Offerman

Dumbest band name: Ravioli Me Away (to be fair, their album’s pretty good)

Most anticipated album of 2017: Run the Jewels*

Notable deaths: Prince, Bowie, Lemmy, Leonard Cohen, Marlene Marder (Kleenex/Liliput), Colonel Abrams, Sharon Jones, Mose Allison, Phil Chess, Prince Buster


*sorry Jason, it got surprise -released in 2016 after your list was submitted, and in fact it is on BLURT’s best -of list for 2016 albums. –Ed.



Gillian Gaar / Seattle, WA, @Gillian Gaar

Top Albums of 2016:

Reign — Golden Gardens (self-released) It’s great to discover new music in your own backyard. As I’ve said many times, this band’s music should be featured in the upcoming Twin Peaks series; eerie and ethereal.

Maggie Herron — Between the Music and the Moon (self-released) Maggie plays cool jazz four nights a week at the Lewers Lounge at Halekulani hotel in Waikiki (where you can also check out my favorite drink, the Lost Passion).

Kate Bush — Before the Dawn (Fish People/Concord) I still get to gloat that I saw two of these shows.

David Bowie — Blackstar (ISO/RCA/Columbia/Sony) This album would still be in most Top 10s, even if he hadn’t died.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium — Monolith of Phobos (ATO) Really imaginative; dizzyingly good fun.

7 Year Bitch — Live at Moe (Moe Recordings) So great to see one of my favorite ‘90s bands rekindle the flame.

Green Day — Revolution Radio (Reprise) I like the rock operas better, but this’ll do nicely.

The Posies — Solid States (Lojinx) As everyone’s been saying, their best album in years.

The Melvins — Basses Loaded (Ipecac) How can you resist “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”?

The Julie Ruin — Hit Reset (Hardly Art) Catchy as heck.


Pink Floyd — The Early Years 1965-1972 (Legacy/Pink Floyd Records) I’ve just heard the music, and it’s a fantastic collection. Hope a Secret Santa gifts me a copy.

Queen — Queen On Air (deluxe) (Hollywood) After years of getting bits and pieces, it’s great to have all these tracks in one place. Especially that fabulous 1977 session!

The Beach Boys — Becoming the Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions (Omnivore Recordings) Fascinating document of the early years.

Elvis Presley — Elvis On Television 1956-1960 (Memphis Recording Service)

John Lennon & Yoko Ono — Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions; Yoko Ono — Plastic Ono Band (Secretly Canadian/Chimera Music) The link between the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith.

Mother Love Bone — On Earth As It Is: The Completed Works (Monkeywrench) Andy Wood was a star in the making — he was a Stardog Champion! He lives on in this release.

David Bowie — Who Can I Be Now (1974-1976) (Rhino/Parlophone) Part 2 in this box set series offers the albums, new mixes, and rarities — and incentive to buy the next box.

Tad — God’s Balls, Salt Lick, 8 Way Santa (Sub Pop) In all their gnarly glory, with bonus tracks.

Temple of the Dog — Temple of the Dog (super deluxe edition) (A&M/UME) Grunge’s first supergroup staged the most surprising reunion of the year, celebrated with a nice box set.


Music Books:

Gillian G. Gaar — Boss: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, The Illustrated History (Voyageur Press) I’m plugging my own book because the Lord helps those who help themselves.

Andy Neill — I’m Looking Through You: Rare and Unseen Photos from The Beatles Book Archives (Overlook Omnibus) The Beatles Book was the band’s official fan club magazine, and if you’re a Beatles fan, this book is a must!

Joel Selvin — Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day (Dey St.) The best book ever on that infamous day.

Steve Turner — Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year (Ecco) Steve Turner is a wonderful writer, taking you through a year that was a real turning point for the Fab Four.

Chuck Gunderson — Some Fun Tonight: The Backstage Story of How The Beatles Rocked America (Backbeat Books) The definitive work on the subject.

Gordon Minto and Joseph Pirzada — Elvis on Television (Boxcar Enterprises) Because if you buy the accompanying CD set, you might as well buy the lavishly illustrated 400 page book.

Larry Livermore — How to Ru(i)n a Record Label: The Story of Lookout Records (Don Giovanni Records) Even though Green Day brought Lookout some unexpected success, this will certainly make you think twice about starting a record label.

Ada Calhoun — St Mark’s is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street (W.W. Norton) Not strictly a music book, but musicians are a part of the story.

John Doe — Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk (Da Capo Press) Doe and friends share a lot of fun stories about the era.

Brian Wilson and Ben Greenman — I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir (Da Capo Press) and Mike Love and James S. Hirsch — Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy (Blue Rider Press) Because if you’re interested in the Beach Boys, you owe it to yourself to read both sides of the story.



Jonathan Levitt / Beijing China

Top Ten Albums 2016

  1. James Johnston – The Starless Room (Clouds Hill)
  2. Goat – Requiem (Sub Pop)
  3. Lavender Flu – Heavy Air (Holy Mountain)
  4. Shaun James – On the Shoulders of Giants (Shaun James Music)
  5. Shirley Collins – Lodestar (Domino)
  6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd.)
  7. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)
  8. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL Recordings)
  9. Viv and The Sect -This Will Pass (Get Hip)
    10. Big Naturals & Anthroprophh –Big Naturals & Anthroprophh (Captcha Records)

Worst album of the year: Richard Ashcroft – These People (Cooking Vinyl)

Villain of the year: Donald John Trump

Dumbest trend: Fake News
Epicanthic fold surgery (China)
A President Elect that tweets!

Hardest star deaths to stomach: Prince, David Bowie

Event that overstayed its welcome: The US Presidential Election

Lamest product of the year: Apple Earpods

Most overrated movie of the year: Snowden

Most tragic event of the year: Aleppo, Syria



Michael Toland / Austin, TX

Top 10 albums:

  1. Heron Oblivion – s/t (Sub Pop)
  2. The Gospel Truth – Jealous Fires (12XU)
  3. Cian Nugent – Night Fiction (Woodsist)
  4. Megafauna – Welcome Home (self-released)
  5. Cobalt – Slow Forever (Profound Lore)
  6. Gregory Porter – Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note)
  7. Split Single – Metal Frames (self-released)
  8. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä (20 Buck Spin)
  9. John Carpenter – Lost Themes II (Sacred Bones)
  10. Jack DeJohnette – In Movement (ECM)

Top 10 reissues:

  1. The Scientists – A Place Called Bad (The Numero Group)
  2. Peter Case – s/t (Omnivore)
  3. Game Theory – Lolita Nation/The Big Shot Chronicles (Omnivore)
  4. The Feelies – Only Life/Time For a Witness (Bar/None)
  5. Nikki Sudden – Treasure Island (Troubadour/Rookwood/Easy Action)
  6. Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger: Super Deluxe Edition (A&M)
  7. Big Star – Complete Third (Omnivore)
  8. Panopticon – Revisions of the Past (Bindrune)
  9. The Muffs – Blonder and Blonder (Omnivore)
  10. Tad – God’s Balls, Salt Lick, 8-Way Santa (Sub Pop)

Top 10 singles/tracks/whatever:

  1. Ghost – “Square Hammer”
  2. Split Single – Untry Love”
  3. Gregory Porter – “Holding On”
  4. Cian Nugent – “Year of the Snake”
  5. The Young Philadelphians – “The Hustle”
  6. The Gospel Truth – “Jealous Fires”
  7. Metallica – “Moth to Flame”
  8. Jakob Bro – “Heroines (Var.)”
  9. Watts – “The Black Heart of Rock-N-Roll”
  10. Spain – “Tennessee”

Top 10 concerts:

  1. John Carpenter, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Austin, TX
  2. Courtney Barnett, Sound On Sound Festival, McDade, TX
  3. Cobalt, Mohawk, Austin, TX
  4. Cian Nugent, SXSW 2016, Sidewinder Austin, TX
  5. Luisa Malta, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX
  6. Gregory Porter, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX
  7. The Gospel Fire, Beerland, Austin, TX
  8. Carcass, Sound On Sound Festival, McDade, TX
  9. Barry Adamson, SXSW 2016, Sidewinder Austin, TX
  10. Unsane, Grizzly Hall, Austin, TX



Bill Holmes / Fairport, NY

Top 10 2016 Albums:

01. Sulo – Brilliant Outsiders (Universal)
02. Ian Hunter – Fingers Crossed (Proper)
03. Cotton Mather – Death of the Cool (Star Apple Kingdom)
04. The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab (Dry Wood)
05. Bun E. Carlos – Greetings From Bunezuela (Entertainment One)
06. Todd Snider – Eastside Bulldog – (Aimless)
07. Drive-By Truckers – American Band (ATO)
08. Butch Walker – Stay Gold (Dangerbird)
09. Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are (Barsuk)
10. Quireboys – Twisted Love (Off Yer Rocka)

Top 10 2016 Songs:

01. Samm Henshaw – Our Love (Columbia)
02. Cheap Trick – Sing My Blues Away (Big Machine)
03. Ian Hunter – Dandy (Proper)
04. Bun E. Carlos – Tell Me (Entertainment One)
05. Butch Walker – Stay Gold (Dangerbird)
06. Rolling Stones – Just Your Fool (Interscope)
07. Pretenders – Holy Commotion (BMG)
08. Nick Piunti – One Hit Wonder (Jem)
09. Kurt Baker Combo – Baby’s Gone Bad (Wicked Cool)
10. Weeklings – Little Elvis (Jem)

Year End Musings…

Theme of the Year: Death. It started with Bowie, and it just didn’t stop…Prince, Leon Russell, Paul Kantner, Buffin, Chris Squire, Glenn Frey, Mose Allison, George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, two-thirds of Emerson Lake and Palmer. Too many more producers, session guys, songwriters to list here. I get it – rock is a senior citizen and the lists will get longer, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Oh…and in November? The Death of Hope.

Glad the Stones stopped trying to write new songs and went back to their roots. But as enjoyable as the record was, I can’t help wish they recorded one when Ian Stewart, Nicky Hopkins and Bobby Keyes were alive. Or if they recorded the whole affair with Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor. Brian Jones is rolling over in his pool.

I didn’t get angry when the Rock Hall of Fame nominations were announced with the usual egregious mis-steps. I just don’t care anymore. Maybe that’s maturity? I subscribe to these two commandments – (1) Music is subjective, so my rock hall of fame includes those who my ears, heart and head say belong, and (2) The Sex Pistols nailed it with their response to being nominated.

Maybe rock *is* dead. Paul Westerberg dropped the best work he’s done in ages and it didn’t even make a sound. If it was revealed that he recorded Wild Stab six months after Don’t Tell A Soul and All Shook Down, I would believe it.

Thank you, Loudon Wainwright III, for continuing to make me mostly piss myself laughing but sometimes choke back tears. Concert of the year.

Ray Davies is still being catty and obtuse about a Kinks reunion. Just…stop. Ray, you have a legacy *and* a hit musical that honors your life’s work. Don’t shit all over it by trotting a Kinks reunion band on stage fifteen years too late. I’m probably the biggest Kinks fan on the planet, and even I would rather retain my memories than see the Too-Late-For-Prime-Time Players.

Good start for 2017. New albums already scheduled from Dan Baird, Chuck Prophet, Old 97s, Ryan Adams and Sharks. How about it, Dictators NYC? Reigning Sound? Graham Parker? Webb Wilder? Dramarama?

Resolutions for 2017: (1) Write more often. (2) Go to every concert I’m mildly interested in because artists need support, and increasingly sad but true, there may not be a next time. (3) Write more often. (4) Continue a trend started at Bowie’s passing where I immerse myself in a veteran artist’s catalogue for a week or two. This year alone I wallowed in constants like Bowie, Stones, Rory Gallagher, Neil Young, Dylan and Mott and some whose albums were a little dustier like Roxy Music, Suzi Quatro and Billy Joel. Great therapy and a flush of dim memories thankfully rekindled. Highly recommended! (5) Write more.



Chip Schoolkids / Durham, NC

1) David Bowie— Blackstar (Sony/RCA/Columbia)
2) Crippled Black Phoenix–-Bronze (Invada)
3) Charles Bradley—Changes (Daptone Records)
4) Hayes Carll—Lovers and Leavers (Lost Highway)
5) Margo Price– Mid-Western Farmers Daughter (Third Man)
6) Big Jesus—Oneiric (Mascot)
7) GOAT—Requiem (Stranded Rekords)
8) Good Tiger—Headful Of Moonlight (Blacklight)
9) Sunflower Bean—Human Ceremony (Fat Possum)
10) Angel Olsen—My Woman (jagjaguwar)
11) Tribe called Quest–We Got It From Here….(Jive)
12) A Giant Dog—Pile (Merge)
13) Durand jones and the Indications–S/t (Colemine)




2016 Albums:

  1. Ben Watt — Fever Dream (Caroline/Unmade Road) Formerly known as the male half of Everything But The Girl and the owner of Buzzin Fly Records, Ben Watt has carved out yet another role for himself in the last few years as a singer-songwriter — and it fits him like a glove. His third solo album, Fever Dream picks up where 2014’s Hendra left off: intimate lyrics set to moody sonic landscapes. Highlights range from the nagging title track to the catchy “Faces of My Friends” to haunting ballads like “New Year of Grace” and “Winter’s Eve.”
  2. David Bowie — Blackstar (Columbia) It’s hard to separate this album from the fact that Bowie died two days after its release. But trying to be as objective as possible, it still strikes me as a concise masterpiece. In a little over 40 minutes, Bowie stares mortality in the eye without being morose — and he draws on everything from free jazz to Beatlesque pop in the process. The result is at once heartbreaking and uplifting.
  3. Suzanne Vega — Lover, Beloved (Amanuensis Productions) Lover Beloved is another concise masterpiece: a series of 10 songs that deal with Carson McCullers, the late author who pioneered the Southern Gothic style. Meant to preview Vega’s new play An Evening with Carson McCullers, this album is by turns haunting (“Annemarie,” “Instant of the Hour After”), wistful (“New York is My Destination”) and funny (“Harper Lee”).
  4. Paul Simon — Stranger to Stranger (Concord Records) On his first disc of new material in four years, Simon reasserts himself as one of the best songwriters of all time. Musically, he explores the concept of microtonal tunings, created by the late composer Harry Partch. Lyrically, he’s in fine form as ever — especially on the infectious but wry “Wristband,” which starts out as a personal story but ends up telling universal truths.
  5. Drive-By Truckers — American Band (ATO Records) Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and their cohorts seem to turn out albums at an exhaustive pace. American Band finds the Truckers tackling a variety of subjects from violence and racism (“What It Means,” “Guns of Umpqua,” “Ramon Casiano”) to Robin Williams’ suicide (the album-closer “Baggage”). The result is a warts-and-all look at America in the here and now. No easy answers but a lot of important questions — backed by kickass, Southern rock and roll.
  6. Norah Jones — Day Breaks (Blue Note) NoJo’s sixth studio outing finds her returning to a more jazz-oriented setting, after her work with alt-rock producers like Jacquire King and Danger Mouse. Day Breaks is the Norah we first fell for but older and wiser. Her vocals are as sublime as ever and the album’s guests include jazz legends like Wayne Shorter and Dr. Lonnie Smith.
  7. Edward Rogers — Glass Marbles (ZIP Records) NYC-by-way-of-Birmingham-UK singer-songwriter Rogers has been turning out quality work — both on his own and with various bands — since the ‘90s. At 18 songs, Glass Marbles is, admittedly, a lot to sift through. But Rogers hits more than he misses. Highlights range from “Denmark Street Forgotten” and “Welcome to My Monday Morning” — both of which offer Anglo-pop reminiscent of The Kinks — to the forceful, psychedelic title track.
  8. SHEL — Just Crazy Enough (Moraine Music) I’m not sure if they’re certifiably crazy but there’s no question that the four Holbrook sisters that make up SHEL are insanely talented. Their long-awaited sophomore set, Just Crazy Enough, is more pop-oriented and perhaps a bit less quirky than their debut but it’s another winner. “Rooftop” is a catchy pop tune with a twist, while their cover of “Enter Sandman” slows the Metallica song down until it’s an eerie lullaby.
  9. CRX — New Skin (Columbia) The side project of Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi finds him working in a similar vein to that band. New Skin doesn’t maintain the super high bar set by the first track, “Ways to Fake It” all the way through — but it’s enjoyable, New Wave-influenced pop nonetheless.
  10. Dead Horses — Cartoon Moon (Dead Horses) The third album by this Wisconsin trio is a haunting affair sure to please fans of Americana music in general and, more specifically, The Cowboy Junkies.

Honorable Mention:

  1. Cheap Trick — Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello! (Big Machine)
  2.  Ally Venable Band — No Glass Shoes (Connor Ray Music) 
 3.  Blue Rodeo — 1000 Arms (Telesoul Records) 
 4.  Mother Feather — self-titled (Metal Blade) 
 5.   Cyndi Lauper — Detour  (Sire)


  1. Lou Reed — The RCA & Arista Album Collection (Sony/Legacy) 16 discs that chronicle Lou Reed’s career from the early ‘70s to the mid ‘80s, not to mention great liner notes by Hal Willner and memorabilia galore.  A most enjoyable walk on the wild side courtesy of Sony/Legacy Recordings.
  2. Paul McCartney — Pure McCartney (Concord/Hear Music)
  3. Jeff Buckley — You and I (Sony/Legacy)
  4. Various Artists — Action Time Vision: A Story of Independent UK Punk (Cherry Red)
  5. Survivor — The Definitive Collection (Real Gone Music)
  6. The Connells — Stone Cold Yesterday (Bicycle Music)
  7. David Bowie — Who Can I Be Now: 1974—1976 (Rhino/Parlophone)
  8. Brook Benton — Rainy Night in Georgia: The Complete Reprise & Cotillion Singles (Real Gone Music)
  9. Milk N’ Cookies — self-titled (Captured Tracks)
  10. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years (NGDB Records)

In Memoriam: Where do I begin? Without going on endlessly, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’ve never experienced a year like 2016. From start to finish, it’s been marked by loss and adversity — personally, politically and certainly in the music world.  For me, the biggest losses were David Bowie, Prince and (just last weekend) George Michael. All three were immense talents, all three died young and (while Bowie appeared more than a decade earlier), all three ruled the airwaves during the 1980s. 
        Earlier this year, while interviewing Ben Watt, I asked his thoughts on Bowie. “He was such a strong, iconic figure,” Watt replied. “Untouchable, in a way. I remember feeling the same way about Prince in the ‘80s: just ridiculously talented, mercurial [and] ever-changing.” Strangely, Prince died a few days after our conversation.
        I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Natalie Cole (who died on New Years’ Day), Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Leon Russell, Paul Kantner and Nicholas Caldwell of The Whispers. Hope I didn’t miss anyone… In truth, I’ll be missing a lot of these folks.

Biggest Disappointment: Here, the first album from Teenage Fanclub since 2010. I loved their last album, Shadows, and am a big fan of the Fannies in general. On Shadows, they were mellower and more content than usual but the songwriting was still there.  Unfortunately, Here crosses the line from content into tranquil and boring.  

Best Label: Sony/Legacy

Best New Artist: The Ally Venable Band (She may be working in a traditional genre — the blues — but Ally Venable does what she does well. And she’s still only in her teens!)

Hero of the Year:  It’s a tossup… David Bowie for continuing to create great art right up to his death and even incorporating death into his art on both Blackstar and the “Lazarus” video”…. And Bruce Springsteen for still playing three-to-four hour shows at the age of 66, inviting fans  onstage during those shows, casually calling Donald Trump out as “a moron” in Rolling Stone and, in general, being Bruce Springsteen.

Asshole of the Year: Madonna.  Hands down, for the second year in a row. This year, the Material Girl performed a narcissistic concert tribute to Bowie (which proved only that her voice is shot), exposed a young fan’s breast during a concert and offered blow jobs to anyone who voted for Hillary Clinton. I’m still not sure who cost Hillary the election — Putin or Madonna. In any event, this is what happens when you’re so desperate to remain relevant that you resort to shock tactics in lieu of talent.

Best Holiday Song: “This is a Christmas Song, My Love” by JayMay

Best Video: David Bowie — “Lazarus”

Best Concert: Norah Jones at The Sheen Center. October 2016, NYC.

Best/Worst Band Name: Cattle Decapitation

Worst Trend: Musicians dying relentlessly, before their time.

2017 Release I’m Most Anticipating: The third (and supposedly final) disc by The Distractions, Kindly Leave the Stage.

Favorite Piece I Wrote for Blurt: Cheap Trick — Back With a Bang!



Eric Thom / Toronto, ON

Best CD Releases of 2016:

  1. Claire Lynch – North By South (Compass Records)
  2. Brooke Annibale – The Simple Fear (Independent)
  3. Joanna Connor – Six String Stories (M.C. Records)
  4. Mike Farley Band – Mike Farley Band (Independent)
  5. Michael Juan Nunez – Rise (ParishLine Records)
  6. Alejandro Escovedo – Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy Records)
  7. Dori Freeman – Dori Freeman (Free Dirt Records)
  8. Goodbye Blue – Worth The Wait (Wondermore Records)
  9. Waiting For Henry – Town Called Patience (Mighty Hudson Music)
  10. Mike Eldred Trio – Baptist Town (Great Western Recording Company)

Best Concert of 2016:   Ricky Skaggs & Ry Cooder – Massey Hall, April 11th, 2016



Hal Bienstock / Brooklyn, NY

Best albums:

David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia/RCA/ISO)
Bon Iver – 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)
Beyonce – Lemonade (Columbia/Parkwood)
Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguar)
Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans)
Drive-By Truckers – American Band (ATO)
Lori McKenna – The Bird & the Rifle (CN)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd.)
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador)
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book (self-released)

Honorable mention: Solange – A Seat at the Table (Saint/Columbia), Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Columbia), Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (Atlantic), St. Paul & the Broken Bones – Sea of Noise (Records), Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee (Merge), Anderson .Paak – Malibu (Steel Wool/Obe/Art Club/Empire), Lucy Dacus – No Burden (Egghunt/Matador), Lydia Loveless  – Real (Bloodshot), White Denim – Stiff (Downtown), Big Thief – Masterpiece (Saddle Creek)


The Band – The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary Edition (Rhino/Warner Bros.)
Lou Reed – The RCA & Arista Album Collection (Sony Legacy)
Van Morrison – ..It’s Too Late to Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV & DVD (Sony Legacy)
Afghan Whigs – Black Love 20th Anniversary Edition (Rhino/Warner Bros.)
Terry Allen – Juarez (Paradise of Bachelors)
Terry Reid – The Other Side of the River (Future Days Recordings)


Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – 1/27, NY, NY
The Hold Steady – 12/3, Brooklyn, NY
Jason Isbell – 2/25, NY, NY
The Roots with D’Angelo and John Mayer – 10/1, NY, NY
Tame Impala/Dungen – 6/15, Brooklyn, NY



Jennifer Kelly / Walpole, MA

 Top 10 Albums:

 1. Heron Oblivion, S-T (Sub Pop)
2. Nick Cave, Skeleton Key (Bad Seed)
3. Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial (Matador)
4. Ryley Walker, Golden Sings that have been Sung (Dead Oceans)
5. Dark Blue, Start of the World (12XU)
6. Savages, Adore (Matador)
7. Purling Hiss, High Bias (Drag City)
8. Cross Record, Wabi Sabi (BaDaBing)
9. Steve Gunn, Eyes on the Lines (Matador)
10. City Yelps, Half Hour (Odd Box)

Honorable mention (not in order):
Pony Time, Rumors 2 (Ss)
Bob Mould, Patch the Sky (Merge)
Giant Peach, Tarantula (Don Giovanni)
Honey Radar, Blank Cartoon (What’s Your Rupture)
Beef Jerk, Tragic (Trouble In Mind)
Big Thief, Masterpiece (Saddle Creek)
Chook Race, Around the House (Trouble In Mind)
Haelos, Full Circle (Matador)
Itasca, Open Secret (Paradise of Bachelors)
Kevin Morby, Singing Saw (Dead Oceans)
Mind Spiders, Prothesis (Dirtnap)

Also enjoyed some reissues and comps this year:
VA, Still in a Dream (Cherry Red)
VA, Action Time Vision (Cherry Red)
S to S, S-T (Sommor)
The Jack Rose reissues (Three Lobed)
Pylon live (Chunklet Industries)
The Suicide reissues (Superior Viaduct)



Mark Jenkins / Washington, DC

Top 10 Albums (alphabetical by performer):

Case/Lang/Viers – “Case/Lang/Viers” (Anti)
Flasher – “Flasher” (Sister Polygon)
Future of the Left – “The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left” (Prescription UK)
The Joy Formidable – “Hitch” (Caroline)
Luisa Maita – “Fiodamemoria” (Cumbancha)
Scenario Art – “Dumping Swimmer” (Ki/oon Japan)
Noura Mint Seymali – “Arbina” (Glitterbeat UK)
Title Tracks – “Long Dream” (Ernest Jenning)
Daby Toure – “Amonafi” (Cumbancha)
Trash Can Sinatras – “Wild Pendulum” (Red River)

Select tracks:

Dot Dash – “Crumbs” – from “Searchlights” (The Beautiful Music)
Kingsley Flood – “A Ways Away” from “Another Other” (Kingsley Flood)
Radiohead – “Ful Stop” – from “A Moon Shaped Pool” (XL)
Teenage Fanclub – “It’s A Sign” – from “Here” (Merge)
Tricky – “Boy” – from “Skilled Mechanics” (False Idols/!K7 UK)



Michael Berick

Top 10 Albums:

  1. Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Rifle (CN Records/Thirty Tigers)
  2. Drive By Truckers – American Band (ATO)
  3. Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee (Merge)
  4. Robbie Fulks – Upland Stories (Bloodshot)
  5. Elise Davis – The Token (Make The Kill/Thirty Tigers)
  6. Zach Schmidt – The Day We Lost The War (Self-release)
  7. Joe Henry/Billy Bragg – Shine A Light (Cooking Vinyl)
  8. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Sea Of Noise (Records)
  9. The Monkees – Good Times (Rhino)
  10. Courtney Marie Andrews – Honest Life (Mama Bird)



John Schacht / Charlotte, N.C.

My favorite 2016 records were pretty Catholic, stylistically speaking, suggesting a fertile music harvest. But it was tempered by the unmooring loss of genre-defying icons, and a digital landscape where pathfinders and schlubs get valued equally, and nobody gets paid. Yet all that is overshadowed by the year’s defining event, which casts its post-truth orange pall over everything, music included. Still, I choose to hear in all these artists’ visions a fundamental rebuke, as well as hope for a world where the arc of history still bends toward beauty and diversity rather than boorish excess, bigotry and bullying.

  1. Holy Sons—In the Garden  (Partisan)
  2. Parquet Courts—Human Performance (Rough Trade)
  3. Y La Bamba —Ojos del Sol (Tender Loving Empire)
  4. Sin Ropas—Mirror Bride (Jealous Butcher)
  5. Max Romeo—Horror Zone (Nu Roots)
  6. Damien Jurado—Visions of Us On the Land (Secretly Canadian)
  7. Freakwater—Scheherezade (Bloodshot)
  8. Nels Cline—Lovers (Blue Note)
  9. Woods—City Sun Eater in the River of Light (Woodsist)
  10. Eric Bachmann—Eric Bachmann (Merge)



Steve Klinge / Wilmington, Delaware

Top 10 Albums:

 Drive-By Truckers – American Band (ATO)
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (Atlantic)
David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia / RCA)
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Columbia / RCA)
Savages – Adore Life (Matador)
Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow (Sub Pop)
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
Anderson.Paak – Malibu (Empire)
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador)
Lucy Dacus – No Burden (Matador)



Steve Wilson  / Lawrence, Kansas

2016 – It was a very good year for music … but a lousy one generally…

  1. David Bowie  – Blackstar (Columbia) Brave, brilliant goodbye. From the most important musical artist from the Seventies and beyond. By turns serene and aggrieved, “Blackstar” won’t soon be forgotten. (Btw, Car Seat Headrest does an awesome version of the title song in their live show).
  2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador) Yearning, conflicted – Will Toledo is the ungainly offspring of Brian Wilson and Lou Reed, who grew up listening to Nirvana. Live, you can see him growing into his Rock God costume begrudgingly.
  3. Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) Passion, good songs, distinct point of view, varied/immaculate production. And she had me at “Kill me, Jerusalem,” whatever that means.
  4. Public Access T.V. – Never Enough (Cinematic) One of their songs goes, “They say the kids don’t like rock ‘n’ roll anymore.” But these kids party like it’s 1979. Imagine the Tuff Darts or somebody – with a LOT better songs.
  5. Rolling Stones – Blue and Lonesome (Interscope) Before becoming the ‘greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world’ the Stones wanted to be a good blues band. As wily old dogs they sound like a good blues band and the Rolling Stones. Jagger, believe or not, is a revelation, fully himself, yet in full homage mode
  6. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math (ATO) Breathy Aimee Mann-isms, with tunes to match, and a “Plastic Ono Band” pre-grunge abrasion.
  7. D Generation – Nothing is Anywhere (Bastard Basement) Seventeen, more or less, years apart made them a better band. Jesse Malin’s growth as a songwriter is part of it. The other part is the band’s confident blasting of hard rock, not subservient to any genre.
  8. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp) When asked about the popularity of “Blood on the Tracks,” Bob Dylan told Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) that it was “hard to relate to that – people enjoying that type of pain, you know?” One could say the same about “Atrocity Exhibition,” but Brown adorns his depression with hip-hop genius.
  9. PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project (Island) Some critics weren’t persuaded by PJ as Brechtian agit-popper. I was. Far as I’m concerned, until she puts out a crappy record, Harvey always has a shot at my top ten for that year.
  10. Helen Money – Become Zero (Thrill Jockey) What I said about Danny Brown? Applies here too. Money is actually cellist Alison Chesley. “Become Zero’s” elegiac pieces, inspired by her parent’s recent deaths, remind of Penderecki and Shostakovich, cast in the steel of post-rock. Dark, but beautiful. Not easy listening, but deeply touching.



Steven Rosen / Cincinnati, Ohio

Best Albums:

  1. Pete Astor – Spilt Milk (Slumberland)
  2. Mekons – Existentialism (Bloodshot)
  3. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Columbia)
  4. Solange – A Seat at the Table (Saint/Columbia)
  5. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
  6. William Bell – This Is Where I Live (Stax)
  7. Alice Bag (Don Giovanni)
  8. David Bowie – Blackstar (ISO/Columbia)
  9. Monkees – Good Times! (Rhino)
  10. Alejandro Escovedo – Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy)

Best Singles/Songs:

  1. Pete Astor – “The Getting There” (Slumberland)
  2. Solange – “Cranes in the Sky” (Saint/Columbia)
  3. Pretenders – “Alone” (BMG Rights Management)
  4. Walter Martin – “Jobs I Had Before I Got Rich and Famous” (lle Flottante Music)
  5. Paul Simon – “Wristband” (Concord)
  6. Frank Ocean – “Ivy” (Boys Don’t Cry)
  7. The National – “Morning Dew” (4AD)
  8. The Monkees – “Me & Magdalena” (Rhino)
  9. Anderson .Paak – “The Bird” (Steel Wool/Obe)
  10. The Bad Plus – “Mandy” (Sony Masterworks)

Best Live Performances:

  1. Patti Smith – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall at Nobel Prize Ceremony, Stockholm, Dec. 10: Who wouldn’t – or shouldn’t – stumble over those frightening apocalyptic lyrics? They seem scarier now, considering the guy about to become president, than in 1962 when Dylan wrote the song. And her graceful recovery reminded us of why she’s such a charming human being.
  1. Yo La Tengo and Lambchop sharing the stage and each other’s songs at a late-night Big Ears Festival show in Knoxville.

Best Reissue: Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music (The Numero Group)

 Best Jazz Album: Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith – A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM)

Greatest Loss: Leonard Cohen, whose new music was as vital and important as his old.

Still Waiting For: (1) The first Langford Fest, offering only musical acts that feature Jon Langford. Plus an art fair featuring only work by Langford. (2) That new Kinks tour, already.




Fred Mills / Asheville, NC
(editor of Blurt magazine & Blurt online)

…….. dtc (data to come)……….



REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2015

Courtney Barnett

REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2015

 What stood out in the music world for 2015? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: the hands-down Artist Of the Year, Australia’s Courtney Barnett.


It’s like déjà vu all over again: For our 2015 year-end wrap-up we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for the year that just ended. The first section has the lists for the staff, while the second section has those submitted by some of the regular contributors. Note that if you want to contact any member of our staff, their contact emails can be found at our “Contact” page, and if you wish to reach out to any of the other contributors, send us an email at BlurtEditor(at)Gmail(dot)com and we will be happy to forward it along.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the site we have our annual “Farewell” covering some of the notable music world deaths of 2015, among them Native-American poet/activist John Trudell, Motorhead founder Lemmy, actor Leonard Nimoy, singer/songwriter Brianna Lea Pruett, jazz icon Allen Toussaint. Oh yeah, don’t forget Yogi Berra.


Also check out our 2012, 2013 and 2014 coverage:

2014 In Review: Blurt’s Top 100 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2014

Farewell: Music World Passings 2014

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012


Below: Reissues/Archival Artist of the Year Scott Fagan (both then, and now)

Scott Fagan then now


BARBI MARTINEZ, Assistant Editor (Raleigh, NC)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop

Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp (Merge)

Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

Joanna Newsom – Divers (Drag City)

Meg Baird — Don’t Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg)

Tame Impala — Currents (Interscope)

Tim Foljahn — Fucking Love Songs (Kiam)

Protomartyr — Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD)


Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (Legacy)

Led Zeppelin – Coda (Atlantic)

Scott Fagan – South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

Jawbox – Jawbox (DeSoto/Dischord)

The Clash – The Clash (RSD Black Friday Edition) (Epic/Legacy)

2015 Tracks/Singles

Motobunny – “Let’s Go Out”

Ryan Adams – “Bad Blood”



LEE ZIMMERMAN, Senior Editor/Twang Editor (Maryville, TN)

2015 Albums

  1. Don Henley — Cass County
  2. Dave Rawlings Machine — Nashville Obsolete
  3. The Lone Below — Then Came Morning
  4. Robert Forster — Songs to Play
  5. Corb Lund — Things That Can’t  Be Undone
  6. Salim Nourallah — Skeleton Closet
  7. Adam Levy — Naubinway
  8. Jeffrey Foulcault — Sermon on the Rocks
  9. Joe Ely — Panhandle Rambler
  10. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell — The Traveling Kind


  1. Frank Sinatra — A Voice on AIr
  2. Bob Dylan — 1965-1966: The Cutting Edge
  3. Them — Complete Them
  4. Rolling Stones — Sticky Fingers
  5. Sly and the Family Stone — Live at the Fillmore East
  6. Grateful Dead — Fare Thee Well
  7. Go Betweens — G Stands for Decibels
  8. Led Zeppelin — Coda
  9. Robin Gibb — Saved by the Bell
  10. Van Morrison — His Band and Street Choir


  1. The Who
  2. Ben Rector
  3. Stevie Wonder
  4. Avett Brothers
  5. John McEuen 70th Birthday Celebration

DVDs/Blu Rays

  1. Glen Campbell — I’ll Be Me
  2. The Jam — About the Young Idea
  3. The Who — Live at Shea Stadium/Live in Hyde Park
  4. The Rolling Stones — Live in Tokyo
  5. Taste — What’s Going On: Live at the Isle of Wight

Top 5 Music Books

  1. Ray Wylie Hubbard — A Life… Well, Lived
  2. John Fogerty — Fortunate Son
  3. Dave Morrell — 1974: The Promotion Man in New York City
  4. Ronnie Wood — How Can It Be A Rock & Roll Diary
  5. Ringo Starr — Photograph


  1. The Martian
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. Ant-Man
  4. Jurassic World
  5. Spectre
  6. Love and Mercy

Best Record Label: Bloodshot… The little insurgent that could!

In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death: B.B. King… Long live the King!

Best New Artist: Dawn & Hawkes… simple, sublime and unassuming folk po

Worst New Artist: Don’t know. Won’t listen.

Dumbest Band Name: “The Weeknd” — really? Rappers have never been known for their clever handle, but this has to be the dumbest by far.

Sex Object of the Year: Lady GaGa singing the standards. That’s one classy Lady.

Asshole of the Year: The Donald perhaps?  Sadly, in a pitiful pack of presidential contenders from both parties, he’s also the most provocative. Sad, sad, sad.

Best Hair or Facial Hair: It was the Avett Brothers, until they shed their long locks. Todd Rungren’s bleach streaks still impress however and Avery’scool locks on Nashville also inspire.

2016 release I am most anticipating: David Bowie’s * – I won’t even try to decipher the title [It’s “Blackstar” –Discog. Ed.], but suffice it to say, anything new from rock’s most adventurous chameleon is always worth looking forward to. David – don’t disappoint! And let’s not forget the next studio set from the Avett Brothers… the disappointment factor there is generally nil.

Coolest trend or whatever: Vinyl? Maybe… and once I would have agreed. However I must confess that I’m totally tuned to CDs – less space, more compact and still the easiest to collect in terms of affordability and access. That despite the fact that the industry is doing its best to banish them entirely (see below). Methinks the exorbitant price of LPs may doom that trend to little more than a momentary fad.

Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend of Whatever: Since I still feel the same way about this subject, I’m simply going to repeat what I said last year (and the years before that). — I sound like a broken record — pardon the pun — but once again I find myself railing against the continuing takeover of downloads and streams. Folks, I don’t care who you are… if you don’t cherish music in a physical form, then you are not benefitting from the entire experience. Music in amorphous form deprives us of the opportunity to hold it, marvel at it, linger on it as a piece of art, complete with all the visual manifestations of a well-done cover, the intricate liner notes about who did what and the sheer joy of being able to add it to the collection overall. Downloads and streams make music disposable, and beyond the momentary listening experience, makes it transient as well. Wake up people! Don’t let this art form fade away.

Wildcard: 50 Words From or About Me: At the age where a younger me might now refer to the current me as an old man, I feel both reborn and revitalized, free to express myself whatever way I please, without regard for whether my irreverence or wackiness might appear politically incorrect or sadly misconstrued. Living in Eastern Tennessee, a haven of great music (move overt Nashville, there’s plenty to relish on this side of the state!) the tunes still inspire me through times both good and bad, rekindling memories and making new ones along the way. Age is still just a number, as my ridiculously retro hairstyle will attest. Rock on, Mick, Keith, Pete, Roger, Bob and Sir Paul — you’re an inspiration to us all! Thanks for paving the way into the new age reality!

Favorite Blurt article I wrote: The black watch piece Creative Creativity where I finally had an opportunity to give this fantastic band the kudos they deserve. [Amen! –Literary Ed.]



JENNIFER KELLY, Senior Editor (Walpole, NH)

2015 Albums

  1. Meg Baird — Don’t Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)
  2. Protomartyr [pictured above] — The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
  3. Jessica Pratt — On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
  4. Richard Bishop — Tangier Sessions (Drag City)
  5. Zachary Cale — Duskland (Important)
  6. Frog Eyes — Pickpocket’s Locket (Paper Bag)
  7. Lightning Bolt — Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)
  8. Ryley Walker — Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  9. Weather Station — Loyalty (Paradise of Bachelors)
  10. Destroyer — Poison Season (Merge)

Honorable Mention: Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) / Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop) / Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg) / The Fall — Sub-Lingual Tablet (Cherry Red) / Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — Freedom Tower (Mom + Pop) / The Cairo Gang — Goes Missing (Drag City) / Kelley Stoltz — Triangle Time (Castle Face) / Monk Parker — How the Spark Loves the Tinder (Bronze Rat) / The Mountain Goats — Beat the Champ (Merge) / Radioactivity — Silent Kill (Dirtnap) / Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City) / Richard Osbourn — Freehand (Self) / The Lloyd Pack — A Tribute (Amish) / Glenn Mercer — Incidental Hum (Bar/None)


Various Artists — Ork Records: New York — NY (Numero)

JPS Experience — I Like Rain: The Story of the John Paul Sartre Experience (Fire)

Pere Ubu — Elitism for the People 1975-1978 (Fire)

John Renbourn — The Attic Tapes (World Music Network)




FRED MILLS, Editor (Asheville, NC)

Top ??? 2015 Albums (aka a list in progress…. Hey, I’m the goddam editor!)

Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Interscope)

Peter Case — HWY 62 (Omnivore)

Grupo Fantasma — Problemas (Blue Corn Music)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — Freedom Tower (Mom + Pop)

Datura4 — Demon Blues (Alive Naturalsound)

Moon Duo — Shadow of the Sun (Sacred Bones)

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

Michael Rank & Stag — Horsehair (Louds Hymn)

American Aquarium — Wolves (Last Chance)

Billy Sedlymayr — Charmed Life (Fell City)

6 String Drag — Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll (Royal Potato Family)

Phil Cook — Southland Mission (Thirty Tigers/Middle West)

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (Stax)

Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City)

Don Howland — Life is a Nightmare (12XU)

Giant Sand — Heartbreak Pass (New West)

Daniel Martin Moore — Golden Age (OK Recordings/SofaBurn)

Wilco — StarWars (dBpm)

The Waterboys — Modern Blues (Kobalt)

The Good Graces — Close to the Sun (Fort Lowell)

Tommy Keene — Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion Records)

Gabriel Sullivan JVPITER (Fell City)

Jesse Malin — Outsiders (One Little Indian)

Des Ark — Everything Dies (Graveface)

Fuzz — II (In The Red)

Pokey LaFarge — Something In The Water (Rounder)

Mandolin Orange — Such Jubilee (Yep Roc)

Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)

Oneohtrix Point Never — Garden of Delete (Warp)

Natalie Prass — Natalie Prass (Spacebomb)

Panda Bear — Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino)

Obnox — Boogalou Reed (12XU)

Moyamoya — moyamoya (Fort Lowell)

Nox Boys — Nox Boys (Get Hip)

Promised Land Sound — Promised Land Sound (Paradise of Bachelors)

Beaumonts — Get Ready For (Saustex)

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages – Under the Savage Sky (Bloodshot)

Donovan’s Brain — Heirloom Varieties (Career)

Earle, Steve — Terraplane (New West)

McMurtry, James — Complicated Game (self-released)

Minus 5 — Dungeon Golds (Yep Roc)

Pow Wows — Broken Curses (Get Hip)

Sonny Vincent — Bizarro Hymns (Get Hip)


Top ???? 2015 Reissues/Archival (ditto! –Ed.)

Bruce Springsteen – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection (Columbia)

Brother Dege [pictured above] — Scorched Earth Policy (Deluxe Edition) (Psyouthern Media)

Various Artists — Ork Records: New York, NY (Numero)

The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy (Real Gone/Epic)

Donny Hathaway — Live at the Bitter End 1971 LP (Atco/Rhino)

Scott Fagan, South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

Neil Young – Bluenote Café (Warner Bros.)

Game Theory — Real Nighttime (Omnivore)

Sly and the Family Stone — Live at the Fillmore East (Legacy)

Faces – 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything… (Rhino/Warner Bros.)

Shoes — Primal Vinyl (BOMP!/Alive Records)

The Dream Syndicate — The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

Alan Vega/Ben Vaughn/Alex Chilton — Cubist Blues (Light In The Attic)

Lizzy Mercier Descloux — Press Color (Light In The Attic)

Segal, Ty — Ty Rex (In The Red)

Harmonia — Complete Works (Groenland)


Worst Albums of 2015 (aka “the low hanging fruit”)

Adele — 25 (Columbia)

Coldplay — A Head Full of Dreams (Atlantic/Parlophone)

Carly Rae Jepsen — E*MO*TION (604/Schoolboy/Interscope)

Blur — The Magic Whip (Warner Bros.)

Action Bronson — Mr. Wonderful (Vice/Atlantic)


Top 15 2015 Music Books

Warren Zanes — Petty: The Biography (Henry Holt)

Wyndham Wallace — Lee, Myself & I (Jawbone Press)

Stephen Witt — How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking Books)

Todd Mouton —Way Down In Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop Musi (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press)

Harvey Kubernik — Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Backbeat)

Michael Goldberg — True Love Scars (Neumu)

Bruce Pavitt – Sub Pop USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988 (Bazillion Points)

Carrie Brownstein – Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl (Riverhead Books)

Kim Gordon – Girl In A Band (Day Street Books)

Kent Crowley — Long Promised Road: Carl Wilson, Soul of the Beach Boys – The Biography (Jawbone Press)

David Stubbs — Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music (Melville House)

Mark StenAll Ages: The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk Rock 1977-1981 (Reptilicus Press)

Richard Dudanski — Squat City Rocks (self-published)

Alli Marshall — How to Talk to Rockstars (Logosophia)

Pamela Windo — Him Through Me: Making Love and Music in the Sixties & Seventies (self-published)

Ben Snakepit — Snakepit Gets Old: Daily Diary Comics 2010-2012 (Microcosm Publishing)


2015 Tracks/Singles

Joanna Newsom — “Divers” (Drag City)

The Go! Team — “The Scene Between” (Memphis Industries)

Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett

Most Wildly Overrated Artists
Julia Holter

Father John Misty

FKA Twigs

Best Live Show I Saw in 2015: The Who at PNC Arena, Raleigh NC, April 21, 2015

Top 4 Music DVDS of 2015

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection — Penelope Speeris, dir. (Shout! Factory)

The Jam: About The Young Idea —Bob Smeaton, dir. (Eagle Vision)

Scarred But Smarter: LifeN Times of Drivin N Cryin — Eric Von Haessler, dir. (Shanzing Films)

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me — James Keach, dir. (Virgil Films)

Favorite Films: Spotlight; Love and Mercy; Sicario; Me, Earl and the Dying Girl;

Best Record Label: (tie) Light In The Attic / Omnivore

Best Music Website: (tie) The Quietus / Perfect Sound Forever

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: John Trudell

Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging: The Sonics —50 box set (Etiquette)

Best Colored Vinyl Release: The Modern Lovers —The Modern Lovers (reissue – split black and blue vinyl; Newbury Comics)

Hero of the Year: Stephen Curry

Asshole of the Year: ISIS

Fave Internet Meme of 2015: Steve Harvey Miss Universe

Best Hair or Facial Hair: Billy Gibbons (as always)

Sweetest Buns: the two women in Motobunny

Nicest Package: BJ Barham, American Aquarium

Coolest Trend or Whatever: Vinyl continues to be on an upswing (with turntables being one of the number one sellers during Christmas at Amazon as well)

Most Fucked-up or Annoying Trend: (tie) the major labels doing their best to kill vinyl by flooding the market with ridiculously high-priced releases even as they keep raising the list prices on prior releases; Bob Lefsetz continuing to go on and on and on about there not being an actual vinyl revival and folks claiming as such are clueless and helplessly mired in the past.

Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn: I edit BLURT for no financial compensation (my day job is editing a non-music magazine) but still love doing it because, hey, it’s rock and roll! Meanwhile, along with my teenage son I am absolutely nuts about major league baseball and college basketball; ironically it took having a son to rekindle those mutual loves from my own teenage days when I played both sports.

Favorite story or review I wrote for Blurt: “A Big Footprint: The Flamin’ Groovies”


2015 Records I Wish Blurt Could Have Covered ( we didn’t receive review copies) That We Still Consider to be Part of our Top 100 This Year: Calexico — Edge of the Sun (Anti-); Jenny Hval — Apocalypse, girl (Sacred Bones); Torres — Sprinter (Partisan); The Velvet Underground — Live At The Matrix (UMe); Kurt Vile — b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador); Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty); Grimes — Art Angels (4AD); Dam-Funk — Invite The Light (Stones Throw); Deerhunter — Fading Frontier (4AD); Neon Indian — VEGA INTL. Night School (Transgressive/Mom & Pop)

Top 10 Indie Videos We Premiered in 2015 at BLURT

The Black Watch — “Sugar Plum Fairy

Emitt Rhodes — “Making Of If I Knew Then

Gabriel Sullivan — “Hollow Hunter

Grannies — “The Corner of Fuck and You

Stephaniesĭd —“Love Is the New Black

Jack The Radio — “Moonlight

Michael Rank & Stag — “Trails

Seth Glier — “Love Is A Language

Bette Stuy — “Black Dog Blues”

Bruce Sudano — “Bad Girls


Top 10 Tracks We Premiered in 2015 at BLURT

6 String Drag — “I Miss the Drive In

A.J. Croce — “If You Want Me To Stay” (Sly Stone cover)

Johnette Napolitano — “Jazz On Vinyl

Game Theory — “One More for Saint Michael

Tommy Keene — “Last of the Twilight Girls”

The Old Ceremony —“Magic Hour

Stephen Kellogg — “Almost Woke You Up

Bloodhounds — “La Coauhuila

Holly Golightly — “Seven Wonders

Drivin’ N Cryin’ — “Hot Wheels




MICHAEL TOLAND, Senior Editor/Blogger (Austin, TX)

2015 Albums

  1. The Church – Further Deeper (Unorthodox)
  2. Ghost – Meloria (Rise Above/Loma Vista)
  3. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  4. Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns)
  5. Tribulation – Children of the Night (Century Media)
  6. The Happen-Ins – Glamour Shots (Fuzz Recordings)
  7. Gary Clark Jr. – The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros.)
  8. Blind Idiot God – Before Ever After (Indivisible)
  9. Failure – The Heart is a Monster (self-released)
  10. Julia Hülsmann Quartet w/ Theo Bleckmann – A Clear Midnight: Kurt Weill in America (ECM)


  1. Jellyfish – Bellybutton, Spilt Milk (Omnivore)
  2. Little Richard – Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years (Specialty)
  3. Dave Kusworth – Princess Thousand Beauty (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  4. Jawbox – s/t (DeSoto/Dischord)
  5. Epic Soundtracks – Rise Above (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  6. Game Theory – Real Nighttime (Omnivore)
  7. Rag Dolls – Such a Crime (Seventeen/Troubadour/Easy Action)
  8. Five Eight – Weirdo (Chicken Ranch)
  9. Nikki Sudden – Red Brocade (Troubadour/Rookwood/Easy Action)
  10. The Dream Syndicate – The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

2015 Concerts

  1. Tanya Tagaq, SXSW, Flamingo Cantina, Austin, TX, 3/19/15
  2. The ZZZ’s, Levitation, Austin, TX, 5/10/15
  3. Angelique Kidjo, Austin City Limits taping, Austin, TX, 10/17/15
  4. Tribulation, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 11/14/15
  5. The Happen-Ins, CD release show, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 3/6/15
  6. The Last Bandoleros, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX, 10/3/15
  7. Cassandra Wilson, Austin City Limits taping, Austin, TX, 4/28/15
  8. Baroness, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 12/6/15
  9. Ryley Walker, SXSW, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 3/17/15
  10. Strand of Oaks, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX, 10/4/15




STEVEN ROSEN, Contributing Editor (Cincinnati, OH)

 2015 Albums

  1. Kamasi Washington — The Epic (Brainfeeder)
  1. Joan Shelley — Over and Even (No Quarter)
  1. Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop Music)
  1. Dale Watson — Call Me Insane (Red House)
  1. Ryley Walker [pictured above] — Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  1. Daniel Martin Moore — Golden Age (OK Recordings/SofaBurn)
  1. William Basinki — Cascade (2062)
  1. Bob Dylan — Shadows in the Night (Columbia)
  1. Julia Holter — Have You in My Wilderness (Domino Recording Co.)
  1. Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (Southeastern Records)

 Best Reissue: Scott Fagan, South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

 Best Live Show: Watching Jens Lekman, shortly after the Paris Massacre — which many people have said they felt was an attack on live music and the happiness and sense of community it can provide — give a joyously hopeful and kind performance at Cincinnati’s Woodward Theater. Coming from Sweden and well-traveled in Europe, Paris may well have been on his mind though he never said anything. He had come to town partly to participate in an art project sponsored by Contemporary Arts Center in which people submitted short stories about their personal experiences to him to turn into songs. He did that and performed the results while they were in the audience. He also performed his own songs with a local youth orchestra called MYCincinnati, which probably had never experienced a rock crowd before — and both those aspiring musicians and Lekman were delighted. I think everyone left happy — experiences like this are one reason people go to concerts in the first place. Good to know they still exist.

Best Live Show — Runner-Up: Watching Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, working with an avant-garde jazz duo, channel both Yoko Ono and Exorcist-era Linda Blair as her “throat voice” and “lung voice” battled in a Screaming With the Stars showdown while her body sometimes flopped and dropped, crawled and rolled around the stage. A live concert should also be like this, dangerous — but dangerous because the music is so challenging you don’t know how to respond, not because concert halls are killing floors.

Hardest Song to Hear: I still haven’t heard the already mythic “16 Angels Dancing ‘Cross the Moon” by Chip Taylor and John Prine because the 10-inch vinyl it was released on sold out so fast on Black Friday and now it’s frightfully expensive.

Best Music Movie: Love and Mercy has its flaws, but Paul Dano sure channeled the Brian Wilson of the Pet Sounds/Smile era.

Best Music Exhibit in a Museum: Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats at Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville.


Moon Duo

JONATHAN LEVITT, Contributing Editor (Beijing China)

2015 Albums

  1. Jamie XX — In Colour (Young Turks)
  2. The White Birch — The Weight of Spring (Glitterhouse)
  3. Tame Impala — Currents (Interscope)
  4. Number Three Combo — Retrofitting (Slowburn Records)
  5. Moon Duo [pictured above]— Shadow of the Sun (Sacred Bones)
  6. White Manna — Pan (Cardinal Fuzz)
  7. Death and Vanilla — To Where The Wild Things Are (Fire Records)
  8. Side Effects Box Set — (Fruits De Mer Records)
  9. Sundarata — Language of the Stars (Slowburn Records)
  10. Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit (Mom & Pop)

Reissues/Archival Title of 2015: Amara Toure — 1973-1980 (Analog Africa)

Worst Album of 2015: Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe — I Declare Nothing (A Recordings)

Best Concert of 2015: Moon Duo @Yugong Yishan Beijing

Top Label of 2015: (tie) Fruits De Mer Records / Slowburn Records Tucson

Most Important topic I spouted endlessly about in 2015: BEIJING POLLUTION



JOHN SCHACHT, Contributing Editor (Charlotte, NC)

2015 Albums (aka twenty-five new releases that did lovely — filthy — rhythmic — noisy — gentle — sexy things to John Schacht’s willing ears in 2015)

  1. It Hugs Back — Dreamwave (Safe & Sound)
  2. The Cairo Gang — The Cairo Gang Goes Missing (God?)
  3. Ought — Sun Coming Down (Constellation)
  4. Mac McCaughan — Non-Believers (Merge)
  5. Protomartyr — Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
  6. Cian Nugent — Night Fiction (Woodsist)
  7. Tim Foljahn — Fucking Love Songs (Kiam)
  8. Monk Parker — How the Spark Loves the Tinder (Bronze Rat)
  9. JKutchma & the Five-Fifths — Blue Highways (Last Chance)
  10. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment — Surf (self-released)
  11. Parquet Courts — Monastic Living (Rough Trade)
  12. Dorthia Cottrell — Dorthia Cottrell (Forcefield)
  13. Dave Segeddy — Shrodego (Joyful Noise)
  14. La Luz — Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)
  15. Nap Eyes — Whine of the Mystic (Paradise of Bachelors)
  16. Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp (Merge)
  17. Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
  18. Shannon & the Clams — Gone by Dawn (Hardly Art)
  19. Torres — Sprinter (Partisan)
  20. Wilco — StarWars (dBpm)
  21. Eden Sela — Purgatory (Thin Wrist)
  22. Haiku Salut — Etch and Etch Deep (How Does It Feel to Be Loved?)
  23. Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)
  24. The Waterboys — Modern Blues (Kobalt)
  25. Low — Ones & Sixes (Sub Pop)



R Headache

TIM HINELY, Contributing Editor/Blogger (Denver, CO)

 2015 Albums

royal headache- high  (what’s your rupture)

the chills- silver bullets (fire records)
expert alterations- you can’t always be liked (kanine)

jason isbell- something more than  free (ato)
salad boys- metalmania (trouble in mind)

linden- rest and be thankful (slumberland)

sweet talk- double perfect- (12xu)
sarah cracknell- red kite (cherry red)

club 8- pleasure (labrador)

the spook school- try to be hopeful (fortuna pop)
knife pleats- hat bark beach (jigsaw/ lost sound tapes)

la luz- weirdo shrine (hardly art)
the fireworks- switch me on  (shelflife)

primitive parts- parts primitive (trouble in mind)

twerps- range anxiety (merge)

car seat headrest- teens of style (matador)

eztv- calling out (captured tracks)

helen- the origjnal faces (kranky)
don howland- life is a nightmare (12xu)

the monochrome set- expert alterations (tapete)

Honorable Mentions: I also liked records by: the apartments, deaf wish , belle and sebastian, rocket from the tombs, co-pilgrim, wreckless eric, dick diver, pugwash, hierophants, sports, static daydream, obnox, best coast, postal blue, strawberry whiplash, fred thomas, joanna, gruesome, julia holter, the mantles, gospelbeach, the legends, robert forster, hugelarge, the school, bunnygrunt, ultimate painting, roman a clef, xetas, uniform, nots, the rightovers, seapony,  giant sand, the jet age,  sufjan stevens, the sonics, jason james, dot dash, the zoltars, the blind shake, orange peels, the orchids, coastal, and probably several others that I’m forgetting about.


g stands for go-betweens: volume 1 (domino)

leatherface- razorblades and aspirin 1990-1993 (fire records)
half japanese- volume three- 1990-1995 (fire records)

the dictators- go girl crazy (real gone music)

velvet underground- loaded
denny lile- hear the bang
robin gibb- save by the bell (reprise)

sun city girls- torch of the mystics (abduction)

v/a- all about the girls (Croydon/cherry red )
dusty springfield- come for a dream  (real gone music)
the muffs- s/t (omnivore)
dusty springfield- faithful (real gone music)

del shannon- the further adventures of charles westover (trouble in mind)



DANIEL MATTI, Contributing Editor/Beer Ed. (Raleigh, NC)

2015 Films

  1. Mad Max Fury Road
  2. Spotlight
  3. The End of the Tour
  4. Love and Mercy
  5. Amy
  6. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens
    1. Sicario
    2. Ex Machina
    3. Love
    4. While We’re Young
    5. Bone Tomahawk
    6. Youth
    7. Me Earl and the Dying Girl
    8. Ant Man
    9. The Wrecking Crew

Top 15 Albums of 2015

  1. The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmelessness
  2. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble
  3. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It
  4. Kamasi Washington – The Epic
  5. Future – DS2
  6. Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
  7. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
  8. Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Three : River Run Thee
  9. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
  10. Cloudrat – Qliphoth
  11. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
  12. Gucci Mane – 1017 Mafia: Incarcerated
  13. Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete
  14. Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt
  15. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Top 15 Local Albums of 2015

1.Sarah Shook and The Disarmers – Sidelong
2. The Second Wife – Tourist
3. Escher – The Ground is Missing
4. Chateau – Amissus
5. Mipso – Old Time Reverie
6. Octopus Jones – El Guapo Sessions
7.American Aquarium [pictured above] – Wolves
8. Etiolated – Grey Limbs, Grey Skies
9. Anthony Neff and The Nearly Distants- Blood Beneath the Sun
10. See Gulls – You Can’t See Me

  1. Dragmatic – At Least We’re Not Dead Yet
  2. Bedowyn – Blood of the Fall

13.Boulevards – Boulevards EP

  1. Phil Cook – Southland Mission
  2. Des Ark – Everything Dies

Top 5 Concerts of 2015

  1. Death Grips @ Orange Peel – Asheville
  2. Faith No More @ Red Hat – Raleigh
  3. Glen Hansard @ DPAC – Durham
  4. The Legend of Zelda Symphony @ DPAC – Durham
  5. Primus @ Lincoln Theatre – Raleigh



JASON GROSS, Staff Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)

Miguel – Wildheart (Bystorm/RCA)

Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This (Anti-)

Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)

Lyrics Born – Real People (Mobile Home Recordings)

Bjork – Tri Angle Records Birthday DJ Set (soundcloud)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

The Go! Team – The Scene Between (Memphis Industries)

Alchemist and Oh No – Alchemist and Oh No Present Welcome to Los Santos (Mass Appeal)

Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too (Big Dada)


Johnny Winter/James Cotton/Muddy Waters – Boston Music Hall 1977 (Echoes)

Various Artists – 60 Songs From The Cramps’ Crazy Collection: The Incredibly Strange Music Box (Righteous)

The Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes (UME)

Lefty Frizzell – The Complete Columbia Recording Sessions, Vol. 1 – 1950-1951 (Columbia/Legacy)

Various Artists – The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Salsa (World Music Network)

2015 Tracks/Singles

Beat Spacek — “I Wanna Know” (Ninja Tune)

The Go! Team — “The Scene Between” (Memphis Industries)

Kendrick Lamar — “The Blacker The Berry” (Aftermath)

Estelle — “Something Good/Devotion (Passion Interlude)” (BMG)

Iain Woods — “Fiend” (Soundcloud)

Elle King — “Ex’s and Oh’s” (RCA)

Georgia — “Move Systems” (Domino)

VDP — “Caffeine ft Safe Posse, Joshua McGregor and Abby Martinez” (bandcamp)

Janelle Monae And Wondaland — “Hell You Talmbout”

Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique — “Love Is Free (featuring Maluca)” (Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope)

2015 Concerts

Zombies- NY Society of Ethical Culture- Oct 9, 2015

Kid Koala- Brooklyn Academy of Music- Sept 17, 2015

Lightning Bolt- The Wick, May 15, 2015

Squarepusher – Webster Hall- April 19, 2015

D’Angelo – Apollo Theater- Feb 7, 2015

2015 Books

Carrie Brownstein – Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl

Banning Eyre – Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe

Kim Gordon – Girl In A Band

Jessica Hopper- The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

Preston Lauterbach – Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis



Janis Joplin – Little Girl Blue

Love and Mercy

Syl Johnson- Any Way the Wind Blows

Wrecking Crew


Squarepusher “Stor Eiglass”

Kendrick Lamar “Alright”

Dave Grohl and the Animal “Drum Battle- The Muppets”

Run the Jewels “Close your Eyes”

Lightning Bolt “The Metal East”

Best Record Label: Tie- Sahelsounds and Glitterbeat

Best New Artist: Courtney Barnett

Best Album Packaging: Egyptian Lover “Egypt, Egpyt”

Hero of the Year: The FBI Agent(s) who repossesses Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time in Shaolin album from Martin Shkreli

Worst Trend: Donald Trump

2015 Album I’m Anticipating: PJ Harvey

In Memoriam: Allen Toussaint, Ornette Coleman, B.B. King, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, Leslie Gore, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) and Oliver Sacks

Favorite Blurt Article I Wrote: My 2015 holiday music roundup



HAL BIENSTOCK, Contributing Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)

Royal Headache – High (What’s Your Rupture)

Tame Impala – Currents (Interscope)

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color (ATO)

Laura Marling – Short Movie (Ribbon/Virgin EMI)

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD)

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador)

Honorable mention: Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art) / Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar) / Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style (Matador) / Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Six Shooter) / Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge) / Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder) / Torres – Sprinter (Partisan)


Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (Legacy)

Bruce Springsteen – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection (Columbia)

Neil Young – Bluenote Café (Warner Bros.)

Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes (Universal/Polydor)

Various Artists – Ork Records: New York, New York (The Numero Group)

2015 Concerts

Sleater-Kinney – 12/15, Brooklyn, NY

Jason Isbell – 7/24, Brooklyn, NY

Spoon – 3/18, Austin, TX

Sturgill Simpson – 2/12, Brooklyn, NY

The Thompson Family – 1/29, NY, NY

Mekons – 7/21, NY, NY

Palma Violets – 3/20, Austin, TX



DAVE STEINFELD, Staff Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

  1. RICKIE LEE JONES — The Other Side of Desire (TOSOD Music) Rickie Lee’s latest album is her best since 2007’s The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard. From the swaggering “J’ai Connais Pas” to “Christmas in New Orleans,” the prettiest postcard from Hell that you’ll ever hear, the music is informed by The Crescent City (where she now makes her home). The Other Side of Desire is proof that 35 years on, this artist is still growing.
  2. THE ZOMBIES – Still Got That Hunger (The End Records) While most of their British Invasion peers have either hung it up or are just going through the motions, The Zombies are making some of the best music of their career. On Still Got That Hunger, singer Colin Blunstone proves he still has the pipes of a guy half his age. And Rod Argent has come up with his best batch of tunes in ages — from the rocking opener “Moving On” to the top-notch torch song “Edge of the Rainbow.”
  3. THE WAINWRIGHT SISTERS — Songs in the Dark (PIAS) In their first outing as The Wainwright Sisters, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche (who share the same father, singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III) deliver a disc of lullabies. They didn’t write any of the songs here but that hardly matters. On covers by everyone from Paul Simon to Townes Van Zandt to various family members, the Wainwrights’ voices blend beautifully enough to evoke a dark night in rural Canada, where this album was recorded.
  4. FREEDY JOHNSTON – Neon Repairman (Singing Magnet Records) The kid from Kansas is back with his best album since This Perfect World, some 20 years ago. Highlights range from the achingly pretty title track to catchier fare like “Sentimental Heart” and “Baby, Baby Come Home.”
  5. COURTNEY BARNETT – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Milk!) This Aussie It Girl proves she has the goods to back up the hype on her latest disc. Barnett sets the mood right out of the box with “Elevator Operator”: story-songs that combine infectious melodies with offbeat lyrics.
  6. SOAK — Before We Forgot How to Dream (Rough Trade) SOAK is actually Bridie Monds-Watson, an androgynous singer from Northern Ireland. Before We Forgot How to Dream, her full-length debut, is utterly haunting — and even more impressive since she was only 19 when she recorded it.
  7. SHAWN AMOS — The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You (Put Together) Renaissance man Amos continues to defy expectations on his latest effort. Where his last album was called Harlem, his new one, The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You, was recorded in Louisiana and finds him tackling the blues (and sounding like he’s having a damn good time doing it!). Most of these songs are originals but there’s also a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights Big City” included for good measure.
  8. THE TURNBACK — Are We There Yet? (self-released) The Turnback is a trio from the NYC area who play good, old-fashioned power pop with the emphasis on “power.” Their sophomore set, Are We There Yet, includes fine originals like “First Song of Summer” and “Faketown,” as well as a cover of The Beatles’ classic “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
  9. NATALIE WALKER — Strange Bird (Dorado Music) Natalie Walker’s fourth solo album finds her collaborating with producer Malina on a series of enchanting electronic tracks about everything from love to the afterlife. The autobiographical title track is my favorite.
  10. AUSTIN PLAINE — Austin Plaine (Razor & Tie) The promising debut from this Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter is highlighted by “Hard Days,” which offers a fresh take on a timeless sentiment.

Honorable Mention: DAWES — All Your Favorite Bands (HUB Records) / COLIN HAY — Next Year People (Compass Records) / THE SELECTER — Subculture (DMF Records) / SARAH PIERCE — Barbed Wire (Little Bear Records) / TOMMY KEENE — Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion Records)


  1. VARIOUS ARTISTS — Ork Records: New York, New York (Numero Group)
  2. VAN MORRISON — The Essential Van Morrison (Sony/Legacy)
  3. EVA CASSIDY — Nightbird (Blix Street Records)
  4. SHOES — Primal Vinyl (BOMP!/Alive Records)
  5. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN — The Essential Bruce Springsteen (Sony/Legacy)

Music Book of the Year: Punk Rock Blitzkrieg by Marky Ramone and Richard Herschlag (Simon & Schuster)

In Memoriam: Too many to mention in 2015, unfortunately. I have to include both Kings (Ben E. and B.B.), Scott Weiland, Ornette Coleman, Phil Woods, Lesley Gore, Errol Brown, John Bradbury, Allen Toussaint, Cynthia Lennon and Lemmy. And I’m sure I’m missing a few…

Comeback of the Year: The Zombies

Asshole of the Year: Madonna… What can you say about a woman who is pushing 60 but is still so desperate to remain relevant that she’ll do everything from flash the audience to leak her own music?

Best Label: Numero Group, for the Ork Records box alone. Incredible music, indelibly packaged.

Best New Artist: SOAK

Best DVD: The Jam: About the Young Idea (Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Best Concert: This one is a toss-up: Joan Armatrading at City Winery and The Zombies at the Society for Ethical Culture. Both shows were in New York City, both took place in October and in both cases I felt like I was witnessing history.

Worst Trend: Outlets that have a lot of money but refuse to pay their writers. I’m looking at you, Huffington Post.

2016 Release I’m Most Anticipating: The new Cheap Trick album, of course!

Favorite Piece for Blurt: “Ben Watt — Moving Target”



STEVE KLINGE — Staff Writer (Wilmington, DE)

 2015 Albums

D’Angelo — Black Messiah (RCA)

Destroyer — Poison Season (Merge)

Hop Along — Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

Jamie XX — In Colour (XL)

Rickie Lee Jones — The Other Side of Desire (The Other Side of Desire Records / Thirty Tigers)

Mbongwana Star — From Kinsasha to the Moon (World Circuit)

Jessica Pratt — On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)

Royal Headache — High (What’s Your Rupture)

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)

Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)



DANNY R. PHILLIPS, Staff Writer (Union Star, MO)

2015 Albums

Clear Plastic Masks — Being There

Built to Spill — Untethered Moon

Failure — The Heart of a Monster

Vietcong — Vietcong

Death Cab for Cutie — Kintsugi

Beat Happening — Look Around (an anthology)

Murder by Death — Big Dark Love

Screaming Females — Rose Mountain

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free

Foo Fighters — Saint Cecilia

 Honorable Mentions: Sleater-Kinney No Cities to Love, Baroness Purple, Cage the Elephant Tell Me I’m Pretty, Wilco Star Wars


Star Wars Ep. 7: The Force Awakens

The Best of Enemies

Mad Max: Fury Road


F is For Family






2015 Albums

  1. Josh Ritter: Sermon on the Rocks
  2. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
  3. Lucero — All A Man Should Do
  4. Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free
  5. Rhiannon Giddens — Tomorrow Is My Turn
  6. JD McPherson – Let the Good Times Roll
  7. The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
  8. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
  9. Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club
  10. Torres – Sprinter


Continental Drifters — Drifted-In The Beginning

The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks & His Band And the Street Choir

Leadbelly – Smithsonian Collection

Alan Lomax Archives – Root Hog Or Die

Carl Hall – You Don’t Know Nothing About Love

Dream Syndicate – Days Of Wine And Roses

Extra Thoughts

The Best John Prine Song Not Written By John Prine: Clark Paterson’s “Sweet Baby” from his quite fine The Final Tradition album.

The Best New Album After A 40 Year Hiatus: Emitt Rhodes’ Rainbow End, which also brings to mind Warren Zevon, which is never a bad thing.

The Best “Jason Isbell Is Too Upbeat For Me” album: Brent Best’s harrowing Your Dog, Champ.

The Best “It’s Weird But Wonderful, I Think” Reissue: Jeremy Spencer’s 1970 self-titled debut after leaving Fleetwood Mac

The Best “I Just Want To Rock Like It’s 1979” Reissue:  Bad Company – Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy

 The “Dwight Yoakam” Award For Best New L.A. Honky Tonker: Sam Outlaw. A great name and a great debut album, Angeleno.

The “It’s Not Too Late To Get Me A Birthday Present” Award: Bob Dylan, The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12



MARK JENKINS, Staff Writer (Washington DC)

2015 Albums (alphabetical by performer)

Khaira Arby [pictured above] — Gossip (Clermont)
Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Beauty Pill — Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are (Butterscotch)
The Chills — Silver Bullets (Fire)
Daby Toure — Amonafi (Cumbancha)
Evans the Death — Expect Delays (Slumberland)
Gwenno — Y Dydd Olaf (Heavenly/PIAS)
Mbongwana Star — From Kinshasa (World Circuit)
Scenario Art — Happy Umbrella (Ki/oon—Sony Japan)
Terakaft — Alone (Out Here)

Honorable Mention: Robert Forster — Songs to Play (Tapete Germany) / Jenny Hval — Apocalypse, Girl (Sacred Bones) / Cheikh Lo — Balbalou (Chapter Two) / Monoeyes — A Mirage in the Sun (EMI Japan) / Shopping — Why Choose (Fatcat) / The Very Best — Makes a King (PIAS America) / Soccer Team — Real Lessons in Cynicism (Dischord) / Songhoy Blues — Music in Exile (Transgressive) / The Vaselines — V for Vaselines (Rosary)


JD McPherson

STEVE WILSON, Staff Writer

 2015 Albums (aka 11 albums I’ll listen to 10 years from now)

 Libertines – Anthems for Doomed YouthThe greatest English band no one in America cares about.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just SitIntelligent, funny, distinctive, rocking. That all matters, right?

Jesse Malin – New York Before the War / Outsiders # – A man has to get some cred for putting out two really good records in the same year.

JD McPherson [pictured above] – Let the Good Times Roll – At once brilliantly, passionately retro (the songs), and smartly, sonically po-mo (the production).

D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah – The great black music of the last half-century, personalized and made revolutionary anew.

Mourn – s/tTeen angst, adult focus.

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier – Band approaching greatness hits “cruise,” and gets better yet.

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material – Yeah, she is Dolly and John Prine. She’s also Elliott Smith and Aimee Mann. It’s the combination that makes her interesting.

Leon Bridges – Coming HomeIt’s soul music. Personal and archetypal. Sounds good to me.

John Zorn – Pellucidar: A Dreamer’s Fantabula – I dreamt of lyrical jazz-fusion, ace tunes and incredible musicianship. Fusion that didn’t suck.

Beach Slang – The Things We do to Find People Who Feel Like Us – Geez, (emo)tional, earnest pop-punk slam. Makes me want to hear Billy Bragg front the ‘Mats.



BILL HOLMES, Staff Writer (Fairport, NY)
2014 Albums
1 The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics  (Re:Vox)
2 Low Cut Connie – Hi Honey (Contender)
3 Michael Carpenter – The Big Radio ( Big Radio)
4 Kurt Baker – Play It Cool (Rum Bar)
5 Jesse Malin – Outsiders (One Little Indian)
6 Ryan Hamilton – Hell of a Day (Fanny Pack)
7 The New Trocaderos – Thrills and Chills (Uncle Mike’s R&R)
8 Michael Monroe – Blackout States (Spinefarm)
9 The Connection – Labor of Love (Rum Bar)
10 Dan Baird and Homemade Sin – Get Loud (Jerkin’ Crocus)

2015 Tracks/Singles
1 Wifee and the Huzz Band – She Won’t Go (self-released)
2 The Sonics – Sugaree (Re:Vox)
3 Motobunny – Let’s Go Out (Atomic A Go-Go)
4 Cotton Mather – The Book of Too Late Changes (self-released)
5 Wyldlife – Rock Candy (self-released)
6 Ryan Adams – Bad Blood (Blue Note)
7 Steve Deaton Three – Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford (Plow Handle)
8 The Connection – Don’t Come Back (Rum Bar)
9 The Dictators NYC – Supply and Demand (self-released)
1 The Detroit Cobras – Feel Good (self-released)

2015 Concerts
1 Todd Snider 6/21/15 (Syracuse NY)
2 The Bottle Rockets w/Marshall Crenshaw 1/22/15 (Rochester NY)
3 The Grip Weeds w/ Ray Paul 1/24/15 (Rochester NY)
4 The Works 3/6/15 (Syracuse NY)
5 Barrance Whitfield and the Savages 8/25/15 (Rochester NY)

In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death: December 214’s back-to-back losses of Bobby Keyes and Ian McLagan haunt me more personally than anyone who left this mortal coil in 215. Keyes was a hilarious raconteur whose fact/fiction tales never ceased to entertain, and Mac was a genuine, warm soul whose character as a person exceeded even his stellar music legacy.

Best Label: Rum Bar Records, home to Kurt Baker, The Connection, Los Breakdowns and others. Like Stiff Records or Motown in their heyday, their label imprint is enough to warrant a purchase.

Best Rock Documentary Film: A tough challenge thanks to The Wrecking Crew, but the documentary about The Jam, About The Young Idea, was the one that put the biggest smile on my face.

Best Rock Concert Film:
Frank Zappa and the Mothers Roxy The Movie, finally released after years of delays. Perfectly captures the genius, the humor and the camaraderie of Zappa’s 1973 band featuring the unbelievable Ruth Underwood.

Thank You Santa Award: If it weren’t for Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and Michael Des Barres in particular, radio would be dead to me. Thank you for continuing to hold the match aloft in the wind tunnel.

We Can Now Officially Ice Skate In Hell Award:
December 18th, 2015 – Ray Davies finally appears on stage with Dave and sings “You Really Got Me”. (Although he still referred to his brother as “Dave Death of a Clown Davies”, which no doubt made Dave want to kill him all over again). WATCH THE VIDEO


Eric Thom – Contributing Writer (Toronto, ON)

2015 Albums

1. Darlingside – Birds Say (Thirty Tigers)

2. Rob Nance – Signal Fires (Self-Released)

3. The Mike Henderson Band – If You Think It’s Hot Here (EllerSoul Records)

4. Glen MacNeil – Where The Heart Remains (Self-Released)

5. Denis Parker and the Modern Saints – Denis Parker and the Modern Saints (Self-Released)

6. Eugene Hideaway Bridges – Hold On (Armadillo)

7. Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio – Live in Tuscany (Bluebloodrecords)

8. The Honeycutters – Me Oh My (Self-Released)

9. David Celia – Double Mind (Self-Released)

10. John Campbelljohn – Chin Up (Nood Records)

Best Concert of 2015: Willie Nile – Horseshoe Tavern, November 15th, 2015


phil cook

JORDAN LAWRENCE, Staff Writer (Columbia, SC)

 2015 Albums

 LOCRIAN — Infinite Dissolution (Relapse) The digital age is terrifying. Real-time maps of nonstop attempted cyber attacks, horror stories of rampant identity theft, doomsday tales about terrorists knocking out the national power grid—all of these and more await you with a quick look around the Internet. But technology is also exhilarating. We’re replacing people’s lost arms with functional robotic ones. IBM’s Watson computer comes as close to to decoding Bob Dylan’s lyrics as most critics. You can even buy a miniature BB-8 that you can control with your smartphone. Locrian excels in the grey area between these extremes. Infinite Dissolution is a technocratic odyssey, a swirling mass of black metal storm clouds and digitized soundscapes. It’s an album amazed by the possibilities presented by new innovations, but it also digs deep into the sense of dread and paranoia that comes along with them. Cascades of pristine synthesizers get swept away by clobbering rhythms and torrential distortion. Ferocious shrieks emerge from corrosive static. The crescendos, huge and awe-inspiring, indulge both wonder and horror. Big things are happening here, but you’ll never know if the outcome is bad or good. Our future could be Terminator. Or we might end up with the casually advanced society of Her. Infinite Dissolution conjures the intoxicating anxiety of staring at the horizon, not knowing what is ahead.

  1. KENDRICK LAMAR — To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope/Aftermath/Top Dawg) Modern critics have a troubling tendency to elevate rap records they feel are more than just great rap records. So let me start by noting that To Pimp a Butterfly is a mammoth testament to one of today’s greatest, most versatile emcees: Lamar can grunt and growl like a more rhythmically regimented James Brown. He can slink and strut like the second coming of vintage Snoop Dogg. At one point, he plays the role of an estranged friend, slurring and stuttering, ranting at himself in a drunken rage. As a rapper, there’s little Kendrick can’t do. But To Pimp a Butterfly is definitely more than just a great rap record. Its musical landscape unites a wide swath of black traditions, bridging hallucinatory funk and jagged bop, laidback boom-bap and aggressive gangsta rap. Its themes are equally challenging: Lamar confronts sexualized hip-hop stereotypes and institutional racism with hard realities of “ghetto” life. He struggles to reconcile his newfound life as a hip-hop superstar and the debt he owes to his impoverished home of Compton. He supports these heavy topics with top-notch wordplay: “I’m a good field nigga/ I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you,” he purrs on “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”; “I’m black as the heart of a fuckin’ Aryan,” he barks on “The Blacker the Berry.” No matter what you call it, To Pimp a Butterfly is great, a ferocious indictment of modern race relations that landed at a time when that’s exactly what many of us needed.
  1. SLEATER-KINNEY — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) A full decade separates No Cities to Love from Sleater-Kinney’s previous effort. And yet, the tenacious indie rock trio has never been sharper or more vital. The guitar lines bend and constrict with endless energy, and Corin Tucker howls out a set of songs that tear at the underbelly of our modern complacency: The herky-jerk momentum of “Price Tag” takes a gatling gun to the debtor economy; the title track decries the waning sense of place in towns that increasingly look the same; and “No Anthems” cleverly upends its own premise, wrapping the album’s most soaring chorus around the notion that all of rock’s true anthems have already been sung. No rust here.
  1. SUNN O))) — Kannon (Southern Lord) Sunn O)))’s live show is a tremendous experience. When I saw them three years ago in a large theater in North Carolina, the hooded figures with huge cabinets shook the room to its foundations. They conjured distortion so thick and loud that it seemed to literally shove me down into my seat. Attila Csihar squeezed out his gnarled groans, lending haunting malevolence to the overpowering display. For me, Kannon is the Sunn O))) album that best approximates the group’s live powers. Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson summon huge columns of noise that undulate in a way that is utterly hypnotic, holding you in their sway despite the sound’s intimidating nature. Csihar’s demonic murmurs are equally intoxicating. Showcasing both power and subtlety, Kannon represents Sunn O))) at their very best.
  1. TITUS ANDRONICUS — The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge) The Most Lamentable Tragedy tells a five-act story across its 29-track, 93-minute duration. But as with many of the greatest rock operas—The Who’s Quadrophenia, for instance—Titus Andronicus’ fourth outing succeeds by ripping its narrative to shreds. Like that Who classic, Tragedy portrays a mind coming apart, an allegory for singer Patrick Stickles’ own struggles with manic depression. As you’d expect from a story told from the perspective of someone going through various mental breaks, it’s restless and scattershot—and therein lies its strength. Stickles’ chaotic moods are mirrored by music that plays grab-bag with some of narrative rock’s greatest champions, cleverly filtering each idea through the band’s signature brand of nihilistic punk. “No Future Part IV” plays like “Baba O’Riley” dosed on amphetamines and steroids, erupting with ragged enormity as Stickles rants with charismatic fervor. “Stranded (On My Own)” is lean and mean like the best cuts on Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life. The triumphant swell of “Fired Up” draws equally from Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire, splitting the difference between past and present. The album doesn’t end quite as convincingly as it begins, but the highs are exhilarating, exploring an important theme and having a ball in the process.
  1. BELL WITCH — Four Phantoms (Profound Lore) Doom metal is supposed to be dour. “Funeral doom,” the even more methodical and macabre sub-genre to which the Seattle duo Bell Witch loosely adhere, doubly so. Four Phantoms is an album about horrific deaths, grisly inescapable ends. But somewhere between the enormous drum concussions and the magmatic riffs, the music finds uplift, emerging from its darkest moments with monolithic riffs that scrape the skies and throaty groans and ghostly cries that intermittently soar. Four Phantoms is dark and uncompromisingly grim, but just as the dour vibes begin to overwhelm, it erupts into moments of triumphant beauty, fleeting gestures made all the more striking by the contrast.
  1. TORO Y MOI — Samantha (self-released) I live in Columbia, South Carolina, the town where Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick got his start before he moved west. And when I took to social media to posit that Samantha, the free digital collection Bundick offered up via Instagram this summer, was a better album than What For?, the proper LP he released a couple months prior, many of my followers vigorously disagreed. Samantha, they reasoned, was a loose and incoherent hodgepodge of tracks recorded across three years, it didn’t hold together like an “album” should. And yet, its moody coherence is exactly why Samantha grabs a spot on my list. It’s a paralyzing drift of undulating beats, adapting the chilly feel of Bundick’s early chillwave-defining work to the twilit brooding of Drake and The Weeknd. Shifting with superb smoothness from one track to the next, it’s damn near impossible—for me, at least—not to fall under its thrall. The highlights push from this base into delirious detours: trippy experiments like the Washed Out-featuring “Want,” which interrupts its eerie groove with an extended audio sample from The Notebook, gleaning genuine sentimentality from what should be a cheap trick; luscious hip-hop features like the Diddy-remixing “Benjaminz,” which twists its familiar sample into gilded funeral march, as Rome Fortune spits superbly charismatic verses about the dark side of greed.
  1. PHIL COOK — Southland Mission (Thirty Tigers/Middle West) No album I encountered in 2015 makes me happier than Southland Mission. A couple years back, Cook led a band through a rambunctious Ry Cooder tribute concert. This proper full-length debut, featuring many of those musicians and others, finds Cook conjuring magic to rival his hero, running with wild with various roots rock traditions, recombining them as he sees fit, and doing so with an infectious audible grin. His spin through Charlie Parr’s “1922,” the second song on the album, builds by degrees to a emphatically stomping conclusion, setting a tone that pervades this marvel of enthusiasm.
  1. CATTLE DECAPITATION — The Anthropocene Extinction (Metal Blade) The Anthropocene Extinction is an album about the end of the world. More specifically, it’s an album about how we are killing it. And Cattle Decapitation’s grueling technicality makes it all seem entirely inevitable. This is an airtight deathgrind blitzkrieg, with ferociously precise riffs and drums stoking the band’s tremendous fury, punctuated by guttural growls and valiant swells that feature a smoother, more conniving vocals—the sound of a beleaguered world happily shrugging off the dominion of men? Perhaps. And if so, Cattle Decapitation’s delivery is perfectly—disturbingly—convincing.
  1. DES ARK — Everything Dies (Graveface) Polarity has long defined Aimée Argote. As Des Ark she’s offered challengingly quiet acoustic delicacies, with the songwriter whispering stories of abuse and sexual confusion, confessing her brutal revelations at a volume that leaves the listener straining to hear. But then there’s the insistent surge of her full-band material, galloping forth with desperate intensity, an equally appropriate mood for her powerful songs. Everything Dies skews somewhat to the softer end of things, but it’s the moments where Des Ark muddies the waters that elevate this collection. “Don Taco & His Hot Sauce Toss” blossoms into a bittersweet, banjo-led rollick that’s both tender and driving. “Street Woods” sways with graceful grandiosity, elliptical washes of piano and picking cushioning Argote as she longs for a love she can hold onto “outside the coldness of my own hard truths.” The expanded sonics lend even greater weight to her unencumbered poetry.



What stood out in the music world for 2014? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: some of our favorite axe-slingers from the year that just ended. See if you can pick out Steve Gunn, Robert Zimmerman, Lucinda Williams, Mark Kozelek, Sharon Van Etten and Ty Segall.


As part of our 2014 year-end wrap-up—go elsewhere on the BLURT site to view our Best Albums Of 2014—we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for 2014. The first section has the lists for the staff, while the second section has those submitted by some of the regular contributors. (We also have our annual “Farewell” covering some of the notable music world deaths of 2014, among them Pete Seeger, Bobby Womack and Ian McLagan.)

Also check out our 2012 and 2013 coverage:

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012



——————EDITORIAL STAFF PICKS——————————————–


JENNIFER KELLY, Contributing Editor (Walpole, NH)

2014 Albums

  1. Protomartyr — Under Colour of Official Right (Hardly Art)
  2. Sleaford Mods — Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
  3. Angel Olsen — Burn Your Fire for No One (Jagjaguwar)
  4. Damien Jurado — Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian)
  5. Ex Hex — Rips (Merge)
  6. Ty Segall—Manipulator (Drag City)
  7. Gareth Dickson—Invisible String (Sleeping Man)
  8. David Kilgour — End Times Undone (Merge)
  9. Watery Love — Decorative Feeding (In the Red)
  10. Jennifer Castle — Pink City (Important)

Also very fine and in the order that I thought of them:

Old 97s—Most Messed Up (ATO)

Dark Blue—Pure Reality (Jade Tree)

Setting Sun — Be Here When You Get Here (Self)

Centro-Matic—Take Pride in Your Long Odds (Navigational Transmission)

Weyes Blood—The Innocents (Mexican Summer)

Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel — Intensity Ghost (Paradise of Bachelors)

Ex-Cult — Midnight Passenger (Goner)

Andy Stott — Faith in Strangers (Modern Love)

Lee Gamble — Koch (Pan)

Steve Gunn — Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors)

Hamish Kilgour — All of It and Nothing (Ba Da Bing!)

So Cow — The Long Con (Goner)

Luluc—Passerby (Sub Pop)

Connections — Into Sixes (Anyway)


JOHN B. MOORE, Contributing Editor/”I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” Column (Philadelphia)


2014 Albums

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time

Cory Branan – The No Hit Wonder

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin

The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces

The Smith Street Band – Throw Me in the River

Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap

Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?


Best Record Label

tie: Bloodshot Records/Side One Dummy


Best Concert of the Year

Billy Joe Shaver/Willie Nelson, 11/16/14, New Braunfels TX (

Best New Artist

Beach Slang (finally a band that digs a little deeper than Nirvana’s Nevermind in mining influences from the ‘90s.)


Dumbest Band Name

You Blew it! (Not offensively bad like some, but just plain stupid and once the pot smoke clears out of the room you will realize you’re saddled with a name worthy of a middle school Blink 182 cover band.)


Worst Trend

Labels and publicists that have stopped sending physical releases (fourth year running!)


Favorite Story I wrote for Blurt: Masked Intruder (



LEE ZIMMERMAN, Contributing Editor (Miami, FL)

2014 Albums

  1. Rosanne Cash — The River & The Thread (Blue Note)
  2. Rodney Crowell –Tarpaper Sky (New West)
  3. Steep Canyon Rangers — Tell the Ones You Love (Rounder)
  4. John Hiatt — Terms of My Surrender (New West)
  5. Avett Brothers — Magpie (American Recordings)
  6. Old Crow Medicine Show — Remedy (ATO)
  7. The Lone Bellow: Then Came The Morning (Descendent Records)
  8. Over the Rhine — Blood Oranges in the Snow (Great Speckled Dog)
  9. Eliot Bronson — self-titled (Saturn 5 Records)
  10. Jason McNiff and the Lone Malones — God Knows Why We Dream (independent)



  1. Bob Dylan and the Band — The Basement Tapes Complete (Sony/Legacy)
  2. Crosby Stills Nash and Young –CSNY 1974 (Rhino)
  3. TIE: — Paul McCartney and Wings — Wings at the Speed of Sound and Venus and Mars (Concord)
  4. Big Star — Live in Memphis (Omnivore)
  5. Hollies – 50 at Fifty (Rhino/Parlophone)



  1. Fleetwood Mac
  2. Steep Canyon Rangers
  3. Lyle Lovett
  4. Avett Brothers
  5. Justin Hayward


  1. The Doors — Feast of Friends (Eagle Vision)
  2. Yes — Songs from Tsongas: 35th Anniversary Concert (Eagle Vision)
  3. TIE: Rolling Stones – From the Vault –L.A. Forum, Live in 1975 and Hamilton Coliseum,

Live in 1981 (Eagle Vision)

  1. Queen — Live at the Rainbow 74 (Eagle Vision)
  2. Various Artists — One for the Road: Memorial Concert for Ronnie Lane (Angle Air)

Top 5 Music Books

  1. “High Notes: A Rock Memoir” by Richard Loren with Stephen Abney (East Pond Publishing)
  2. “Reverb — An Odyssey” by Joe Ely (Letters at 3 AM Press)
  3. “Best Rock Writing 2014” edited by Rev. Keith A. Gordon (Excitable Pressworks)
  4. “Wild Tales” by Graham Nash (Crown Archetype)
  5. “27: A History of the 27 Club” by Howard Sounes (Da Capo)



  1. “Interstellar”
  2. “The Theory of Everything”
  3. “Gone Girl”
  4. “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  5. “Boyhood”


Best Record Label

New West, home to both revered artists like Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell and Buddy Miller, as well as a host of up and coming young bucks. The essential Americana label.


In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death

TIE: Jack Bruce and Ian McLagan – both sad and sudden. See my comments on Ian below


Best New Artist

Scott Miller. He’s not really new as he’s got several albums under his belt, both on his own and as part of the V-Roys. But in terms of the recognition and appreciation he’s due, he’s far too unknown. So let’s start over. Check out his most recent album Big Big World and get in his groove


Worst New Artist

Any one of the endless string of crappy acts I see week after week on “Saturday Night Live.” Who are these people, and how in the world do they rate a national spotlight?


Dumbest Band Name

Diarrheal Planet. I can hear it now, ten years hence on some oldies radio station, the deejay proclaims, “Hey, we’ve got a special Diarrhea Planet weekend! Let it flow, but don’t let it go to waste!” Really guys, it’s a disgusting handle. Ya might want to rethink.


Sex Object of the Year

Body paint… and body paint only


Asshole of the Year

Anyone who can’t acknowledge an email by simply hitting “reply.” Seriously, you lack even that basic effortless modicum of courtesy. WE know you’re busy, but aren’t we all. There’s no excuse for you to be rude, dude.


Best Hair or Facial Hair

Ethan Johns


2015 release I am most anticipating

Bob Dylan’s forthcoming collection of old standards — not because I think it’s gonna be great, but rather because (A) I can’t wait to hear how truly weird it will be, and (B) I can’t wait to unleash my inner snarky self when I write the review


Coolest trend or whatever

I wish I could point to the resurgence of cassettes, but while it may be celebrated by some, I find myself asking the singular question. In God’s name, why?


Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend of Whatever

I sound like a broken record — pardon the pun — but once again I find myself railing against the continuing takeover of downloads and streams. Folks, I don’t care who you are… if you don’t cherish music in a physical form, then you are not benefitting from the entire experience. Music in amorphous form deprives us of the opportunity to hold it, marvel at it, linger on it as a piece of art, complete with all the visual manifestations of a well-done cover, the intricate liner notes about who did what and the sheer joy of being able to add it to the collection overall. Downloads and streams make music disposable, and beyond the momentary listening experience, makes it transient as well. Wake up people! Don’t let this art form fade away.


Wildcard: 50 Words From or About Me

At the age where a younger me might now refer to the current me as an old man, I feel both reborn and revitalized, free to express myself whatever way I please, without regard for whether my irreverence or wackiness might appear politically incorrect or sadly misconstrued. It’s the music that makes it so, a continuing source of sanity and inspiration that lights my way through times both good and bad. Age is indeed just a number — look at Mick or Keith or Sir Paul or the revitalized Fleetwood Mac and the fans that still flock to their shows if you still doubt that. For those of us of a certain age — artists and enthusiasts alike — it’s a common bond, and one to be embraced proudly. Youth may or may not be wasted on the young — I’d lean towards the latter — but it ought not be abandoned by those with the vitality and wisdom to savour it, any calculation of accumulated birthdays be damned.


Favorite Blurt Article:

My interview with the late Ian McLagan. I’ve interviewed many artists in my time, but being a diehard Faces and Small Faces fan — and knowing this man’s extraordinary reputation both as a musician and as a sweet soul — I looked forward to that exchange more than most. And indeed, he didn’t disappoint. I then met him in person at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville this past September and it was a dream fulfilled. It’s a rare opportunity to meet a legend and an individual who also happens to be a hero. His sudden death affected me like that of the passing of a friend or family member. It was a terrible loss, one that will be felt for eons to come. I feel so fortunate that our lives intersected for that all too brief time.



JOHN SCHACHT, Contributing Editor (Charlotte, NC)

 Twenty-nine records that made my 2014 boat float…

Twin Peaks – Wild Onion (Grand Jury Music)

Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean (Nettwerk)

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?)

Wesley Wolfe – Numbskull (Tangible Formats)

Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams (Arts & Crafts)

Bry Webb – Free Will (Idée Fixe)

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

Field Guides – Boo, Forever (Muir Woods)

Naïm Amor – Hear the Walls (Fort Lowell)

The Loudermilks – The Loudermilks (You Know What?)

Cracker – Berkeley to Bakersfield (429 Records)

Holy Sons – The Fact Facer (Thrill Jockey)

The Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head (Slumberland)

Woods – With Light and With Love (Woodsist)

Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation! (Mexican Summer)

Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol)

Chris Staples – American Soft (Barsuk)

Temperance League – The Night Waits (Like, Wow!)

Morrissey – World Peace Is None of Your Business (Harvest – Capitol)

Lee Fields & the Expressions – Emma Jean (Truth and Soul)

Tony Molina – Dissed & Dismissed (Slumberland)

Antlers – Familiars (Anti-)

The War on Drugs – Lost In the Dream (Secretly Canadian)

Floating Action – Body Questions (New West)

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)

Blank Realm – Grassed In (Fire)

Kahoots – Take to the Fields (Telegraph Harp)

Brian Lopez – Static Noise (Funzalo)

Bo White – Millenial Tombs (Kinnikinnik)




STEPHEN JUDGE, Publisher/Owner (Raleigh, NC)


2014 Albums


Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain/Thirty Tigers)

U2 – Songs of Innocence (Interscope)

Johnny Marr – Playland (New Voodoo)

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye (Warner Bros.)

Jack White – Lazaretto (Third Man)

Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol/Universal)

Spider Bags – Frozen Letter (Merge)

Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City)

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguwar)



MICHAEL TOLAND, Contributing Editor/”Throwing Horns” Column (Austin, TX)


2014 Albums

  1. Mastodon – Once More Round the Sun (Warner Bros.)
  2. River of Snakes – Black Noise (Bad Fidelity)
  3. Panopticon – Roads to the North (Norvis/Bindrune)
  4. High Spirits – You Are Here (Hell’s Headbangers)
  5. Jim Mize – s/t (Big Legal Mess)
  6. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Give the People What They Want (Daptone)
  7. Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways (RCA)
  8. Dawnbringer – Night of the Hammer (Profound Lore)
  9. Lee Fields & the Expressions – Emma Jean (Truth & Soul)
  10. Spectral Lore – III (I, Voidhanger)




  1. Rowland S. Howard – Six Strings That Drew Blood (Liberation)
  2. Game Theory – Blaze of Glory/Dead Center (Omnivore)
  3. Nils Lofgren – Face the Music (Fantasy)
  4. Nikki Sudden – Fred Beethoven (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  5. The Posies – Failure (Omnivore)
  6. The Walkabouts – Devil’s Road and Nighttown (Glitterhouse)
  7. Lone Justice – This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983 (Omnivore)
  8. National Wake – Walk in Africa 1979-1981 (Light in the Attic)
  9. The Clientele – Suburban Light (Merge)
  10. The Unforgiven – s/t (Real Gone Music)



STEVEN ROSEN, Contributing Editor (Cincinnati)


  1. The War on Drugs — Lost in a Dream (Secretly Canadian)


  1. The Delines — Colfax (El Cortez Records)


  1. Steve Gunn — Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors)


  1. Jenny Lewis — The Voyager (Warner Bros.)


  1. Wussy — Attica! (Shake It Records)


  1. Hiss Golden Messenger — Lateness of Dancer (Merge Records)


  1. EMA — The Future’s Void (Matador)


  1. Sun Kil Moon — Benji (Caldo Verde)


  1. Future Islands — Singles (4AD)


  1. Rosanne Cash — The River & the Thread (Blue Note)


Best Album Title

Me First & the Gimme Gimmes — Are We Not Men? We Are Diva. (Fat Wreck Records)


Saddest Moment

Learning Ian McLagan died, just one month after seeing him give an energetic, enthusiastic concert featuring much material from a new album, United States. I had interviewed him in advance of the show, and he was so excited about a possible Faces reunion in 2015.


Favorite Music Website

Blurt (You’re fired, Rosen! No nepotism ‘round here, brah… –Ed.)



FRED MILLS – Blurt Editor (Raleigh NC)

2014 Albums

LUCINDA WILLIAMS – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20 Records)

GOV’T MULE – Dark Side of the Mule (Evil Teen)

ANGEL OLSEN – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

JEFFREY DEAN FOSTER – The Arrow (Angel Skull

LA CERCA – Sunrise For Everyone (Fort Lowell)

WAR ON DRUGS – Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)

THURSTON MOORE – The Best Day (Matador)

TY SEGALL – Manipulator (Drag City)

SHARON VAN ETTEN – Are we There (Jagjaguwar)

GROUPER – Ruins (Kranky)

FUNKADELIC – First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate (+180)

UNCONSCIOUS COLLECTIVE – Pleistocene Moon (Tofu Carnage)

SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS – Give the People What They Want (Daptone)

SPIDER BAGS – Frozen Letter (Merge)

U2 – Songs of Innocence (Interscope)

JAMES WILLIAMSON – Re-Licked (Leopard Lady)



BOB DYLAN & THE BAND – The Basement Tapes Complete (Columbia/Legacy)

FELA KUTI – Vinyl Box Set 3: Compiled By Brian Eno (Knitting Factory)

MOGWAI – Come On Die Young Deluxe 4LP (Chemikal Underground)

JAMES BROWN – Love*Power*Peace (Sundazed)

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS – Destroy All Monsters 3LP (Munster)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Native North America Vol. One (Light In The Attic)

NEIL YOUNG – Official Release Series Discs 5-8 (Reprise)

WALKABOUTS – Devil’s Road Deluxe (Glitterhouse)

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – Sun Zoom Spark 1970 to 1972 (Rhino)

THE POP GROUP – Cabinet of Curiosities + We Are Time (Freaks R Us

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Country Funk II 1967-1974 (Light In The Attic)

GUN CLUB – Fire of Love (Superior Viaduct)

THE KINKS – Muswell Hillbillies (Legacy Edition) (Sony Legacy)

SNEAKERS – Sneakers 10” EP (Omnivore)

RY COODER – Soundtracks (Warner Bros.)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Dangerhouse: Complete Singles Collected 1977-1979 (Munster)

DEVO – Miracle Witness Hour: Live in Ohio 1977 (Futurismo)

JOHN COLTRANE – Offering: Live at Temple University (Impuse!)

RADIO BIRDMAN – Box Set 8CD (Citadel)

AFGHAN WHIGS – Gentlemen At 21 (Elektra/Rhino)


Top Tracks

JEFFREY DEAN FOSTER – The Sun Will Shine Again (Angel Skull)

RUN THE JEWELS – Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) (Mass Appeal)

WAR ON DRUGS – An Ocean in Between the Waves (Secretly Canadian)

U2 – Every Breaking Wave (Interscope)

RYAN ADAMS – Feels Like Fire (Pax Am)

LAURA REED – Naturally (Five Foot Giant)


SPOON – Do You (Loma Vista)

ANGEL OLSEN – Lights Out (Jagjaguwar)

PINK FLOYD – The Lost Art of Conversation (Columbia)


Music DVDS

FELA KUTI – Finding Fela! (Kino Lorber)

R.E.M. – REMTV (MTV/Rhino)

BIG STAR – Live in Memphis (Omnivore)

JASON ISBELL – Live At Austin City Limits (Southeastern)

DOORS – Feast of Friends (Eagle Rock)

DRIVIN’ N’ CRYIN’ – Scarred But Smarter (Oasis)

Jerry McGill: Very Extremely Dangerous (Fat Possum)

Muscle Shoals: The Incredible True Story of a Small Town with a Big Sound (Magnolia Home Entertainment)

Punk In Africa: Three Chords, Three Countries, One Revolution… (MVD Visual)

I Dream of Wires: Hardcore Edition (Idow)



Boyhood – Richard Linklater, dir.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – James Keach, dir.

Birdman – Alejandro G. Inarritu, dir.

Guardians of the Galaxy – James Gunn, dir.

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy, dir.

Interstellar – Christopher Nolan, dir.

Get On Up – Tate Taylor, dir.

Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel & Ethan Coen, dirs..


Music Books

Sub Pop USA: The Subterraneanan Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988 – Bruce Pavitt (Bazillion Points)

A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man – Holly George-Warren (Viking)

True Love Scars – Michael Goldberg (Neumu Press)

Brothers Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? A Memoir – George Clinton (Atria Books)

Shaman’s Blues: The Art & Influences Behind Jim Morrison & The Doors – Denise Sullivan (Sumach-Red)

The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings – Dan Stuart (Cadiz Music)

The Doors Unhinged – John Densmore (Percussive Press)

Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records – Amanda Petrusich (Scribner)

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia – Adam Lerner, ed. (Princeton Architectural Press)

Hell: My Life in the Squirrel Nut Zippers – Tom Maxwell (Oyster Point Press)

The Knights of Fuzz: The New Garage & Psychedelic Music Explosion (Purple Cactus)

Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972 – Harvey Kubernik (Santa Monica Press)

Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout! Records – Kevin Prested (Microcosm Publishing)

Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist – Steve Lowenthal (Chicago Review Press)

Ain’t It Time We Said Goodbye: The Rolling Stones on the Road to Exile – Robert Greenfield (DaCapo Press)

Honorable Mention: Best Rock Writing 2014 – Rev. Keith A. Gordon, ed. (That Devil Music) (only reason it’s not on my main list is because I contributed to the anthology so I felt it would be a conflict of interest to essentially nominate a project I was part of)



Paul McCartney – 10/30/14, Coliseum, Greensboro NC

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – 4/24/14, PNC Arena, Raleigh NC (my review: )

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – 9/18/14, PNC Arena, Raleigh NC


Best Record Label

Light In The Attic / Omnivore Recordings (tie): This year I was all about the archival releases, and it was damned tough to pick one (or two… sigh) given some of the other stellar efforts on the part of such mainstays as Sundazed and Rhino as well as the likes of Real Gone Music and Munster. But LITA took the art of packaging to a new level, particularly their vinyl releases (tip-on sleeves, massive books, heavy vinyl, outer boxes, etc.); and Omnivore consistently came up with bands with the perfect blend of name recognition and underground cool (hello, Posies), additionally offering first pressings in gorgeous colored vinyl.


Best Music-related Website

Spotify… JUST KIDDING! Let’s go with


Best Music Videos We Premiered at Blurt



THE DB’S – Write Back

ROCCO DELUCA – Colors of the Cold



In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death

Joe Young, guitarist for AntiSeen (April 30, 2014). My old friend died of a sudden heart attack in the driveway of his home, and the news was among the most shocking and saddening I received all year. Joe and I hung out regularly when I lived in Charlotte, NC, during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I was proud to also call myself a fan of his perfectly primitive style of destructo punk guitar. I dearly miss him.


Best New Artist

Eastlink (Melbourne, Australia) – Eastlink album released by In The Red Records. Read our story here:


Worst New Artist

Shakey Graves (but the band name is great, so what do I know; the 2014 album was And The War Came, released by Dualtone)


Dumbest Band Name

So Cow (but the band itself is great – 2014 album The Long Con, released by Goner)


Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging

Neil Young – A Letter Home Deluxe Box Set (Reprise) Even though the Jack White-produced album was a tad underwhelming, it was still a pleasant listen — and this box was just unfucking believable. You got two versions of it on vinyl, a CD version, a DVD version and a version pressed up on seven separate 5” clear vinyl singles, all housed in an oversized custom box and containing a fat booklet. Pure collector catnip.


Hero of the Year

Mark Kozelek, just ‘cos


Asshole of the Year

Twice-time winner Scott Stapp (Coming for 2015 selection: Kanye West fans, for not knowing who Paul McCartney is.)


Fave Internet Meme of 2014

Bill Cosby


Best Hair or Facial Hair

Valient Himself, of Valient Thorr


Sweetest Buns

Charli XCX (not sure why I am picking her but it’s a way to avoid even mentioning Nicki Minaj, eh?)


Nicest Package

Robert Plant, as always.


2015 Release I Am Most Anticipating

American Aquarium – Wolves (self-released, Feb. 3) Our Raleigh compatriots should make a huge impact with their latest studio album, which is the perfect marriage of sweet Americana twang and full-on hard rockin’.


Coolest Trend or Whatever

Rock ‘n’ roll beefs (see: Mark Kozelek, War On Drugs). Why should hip-hoppers have all the fun (and drive-bys)? It’s time for rockers to start keepin’ it real. What’s truly shameful is that within the rock milieu, in the past only rock critics would have beefs, graduating over the years from fanzine letters columns to internet forums and message boards while maintaining a respectable level of hostility and spurious territoriality. Now, though, with Mark K and Adam G setting examples this year, the rock musician community can get moving with some serious artist-on-artist violence.


Most Fucked-up or Annoying Trend or Whatever

Year-end lists.


Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn

I love Jethro Tull.


Favorite story or review I wrote for Blurt

“KONNECTING WITH THE KINKS: Ray Davies in ’75,” or, how I “met” the Kinks mainman one day but he didn’t actually “meet” me… and lived to tell about it, sorta. Guest-starring: one ladder, one set of stage lights, and one large chunk of Afghani hashish.




————————CONTRIBUTORS’ PICKS—————————-


BARRY ST. VITUS (Berkeley, CA)


2014 Albums

Bobby Bare Jr. –‘Undefeated’ (Bloodshot Records)

John Wesley Coleman III – ‘The Love That You Own’ (Burger Records)

David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights –‘ End Times Undone’ (Merge Records)

The New Christs – ‘Incantations’ (Impedance / Closer Records)

Parquet Courts – ‘Sunbathing Animal’ (What’s Your Rupture / Mom + Pop)

Purling Hiss – ‘Weirdon’ (Drag City)

Spider Bags – ‘Frozen Letter’ (Merge Records)

The Vibrators – ‘Punk Mania: Back To the Roots’ (Cleopatra Records)

Wussy – ‘Attica’ (Shake It Records)

HEDGING TIE: Meatbodies – ‘S/T’ (In The Red Records) + Parkay Quarts – ‘Content Nausea’ (What’s Your Rupture)


BONUS: The Ike Reilly Assassination – ‘Am I Still The One For You?’

Free download of a ‘Best Of’ collection with 4 Killer New Songs: (Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.)


Archival / Reissues

The Beatles In Mono – Box Set (Capitol Records)

Captain Beefheart – Sun, Zoom, Spark: 1970 to 1972 Box Set (Rhino / Warner Bros.)

Death of Samantha – If Memory Serves Us Well (St. Valentine Records)

Gene Clark – Two sides To Every Story: Deluxe Edition (High Moon Records)

George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968 – 1975 Box Set (CMG)

The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies: Legacy Edition (Legacy Records)

The Kinks – The Anthology 1964 – 1971 Box Set (Sanctuary Records)

The Velvet Underground – 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Universal)



Amanda Petrusich – “Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild Obsessive Hunt For The World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.” (Scribner Pub.)

Timothy Gassen – “The Knights of Fuzz: The New Garage and Psychedelic Music Explosion.” (500 pg. update) (Purple Cactus Media Prod)

Michael Goldberg – “True Love Scars” (Neumu Press)

Dave O’Leary – “The Music Book” (Booktrope)

Bruce Pavitt – “Sub Pop USA: the Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980 – 1988.” (Bazillion Points)

RUNNER UP: Hunter Davies – “The Beatles Lyrics: The Stories Behind The Music…..” (Little, Brown and



Grand Budapest Hotel



Only Lovers Left Alive

The Edge of Tomorrow


Best Record Label



Best Music Website


In Memorium: Most Lamented Death

Jack Bruce


Best New Artist

In a vast sea of dipshits, no one floats to the surface.


Worst New Artist

Overwhelmed by choices in a vast sea of dipshits.


Dumbest Band Name

TIE: ‘We Butter The Bread With Butter’ and ‘Butter The Children.’


Best Album Sleeve Art

Meatbodies – Meatbodies (In The Red)


Hero of the Year

Tara, the Hero Cat.


Asshole of the Year

So many to choose from, can’t pin down just one, but it’s for sure a Republican politician.


Coolest Trend or Whatever

Continued decriminalization/legalization of marijuana.


Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend

Continued American imperialistic, white supremacist, capitalistic, hetero-patriarchy.


Favorite Review Wrote for Blurt

‘Sunbathing Animal’ – Parquet Courts (What’s Your Rupture / Mom + Pop)





2014 Albums

  1. Run the Jewels RTJ2 (Mass Appeal) “I’m gonna bang this bitch the fuck out!” Killer Mike shouts in the spoken-word intro to RTJ2. “You might wanna record the other way, you feelin’ like history being made. This motherfucker put a mirror on the goddamn screen.” True to his word, Mike’s second tag-team effort with fellow incendiary mastermind El-P reflects the chaos that was 2014. Brimming with violent charisma and razor-sharp braggadocio, social unrest is the subtext for every punishing rhyme—whether it’s El-P’s “Give a fuck if you deny it kids/ You can all run backwards through a field of dicks” or Mike’s more pointed “‘Cause when you live on MLK and it gets very scary/ You might have to pull your AK, send one to the cemetery.” The beats and verses escalate with hypnotic perfection: As comfortably psychedelic textures harden into bouts of bracing noise and concussive bass, the rappers’ push-and-pull chemistry moves from simple boasts to vicious political barbs. Mike’s passionate onstage speech in Ferguson, Missouri and his USA Today op-ed objecting to rap lyrics as courtroom evidence grabbed headlines, but all that attention would mean nothing if RTJ2 weren’t already so powerful.


  1. tUnE-yArDs Nikki Nack (4AD) Astounding in its social aims—“Nothing feels like dying like the drying of my skin and lung/ Why do we just sit here while they watch us wither ‘til we’re gone?” Merrill Garbus wonders on “Water Fountain,” signaling a corrosive afro-pop explosion that claws at socio-economic divides—Nikki Nack pushes the already far-ranging musician out of her formerly messy comfort zone, honing her hooks and placing her beautifully confounding voice front and center, in all of its racially ambiguous glory: “I sound like the real thing,” she muses at one point. “Joke’s on you.” Whether such lines leave you laughing or seething, it’s hard to deny that Garbus is slinging heat.


  1. Y’ALL I’m Here Right Now (Funny/Not Funny) No disrespect to the charming sprawl of Ty Segall’s similarly minded Manipulator, but the year’s best glam-garage hybrid came from this new and relatively unknown quartet from Virginia. Picking up the pieces from two rock bands, Invisible Hand and Naked Gods, that chased similar ends, I’m Here Right Now is both cozy and captivating. The guitarmonies alternately sizzle and swaddle, and leader Adam Smith is suave like Bolan until he goes crazy like Bowie.


  1. Caribou Our Love (Merge) Leave it to Dan Snaith to fashion the year’s freshest electronic collection around music’s most depleted subject. But it’s his earnest romantic sentiments that hold Our Love’s disparate ideas together. “Can’t Do Without You” is a restless techno stunner that spends three tantalizing minutes building repetitions of the titular phrase into a massive, club-crushing drop. The murky dubstep infusions of “All I Ever Need” elucidate mainstream EDM’s current obsession, retooling the sound as the backdrop for a percolating ballad. Well played.


  1. Swans To Be Kind (Mute/Young God) Tidier but no less expansive than 2012’s The Seer, this new collection finds the already legendary Swans further refining their new identity four years after ending a 13-year hiatus. Subtle touches—tinklings of glockenspiel, eerie peels of pedal steel—underpin grooves that mutate and distort across songs that last 10 and 30 minutes, none of which are wasted on Michael Gira, who shrieks and cackles with all the clear-eyed lunacy his fans have come to expect. They’re not the violent noise-rock band they once were, but what Swans are now is just as good—if not better.


  1. D’Angelo and the Vanguard Black Messiah (RCA) Much has been made of the versatile arrangements—the fire-breathing funk of “1000 Deaths,” the proto-hop strut of “Sugah Daddy”—and the political firepower—D’Angelo moved up the release date so lines like “All we wanted was a chance to talk/ ‘Stead we only got outlined in chalk” could speak to unrest following the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But it’s the spellbinding vocal performances on his first album in 14 years that elevate Black Messiah, bridging its myriad ideas and frustrations with buttery, sensual charm.


  1. Hiss Golden Messenger Lateness of Dancers (Merge) How do you react when everything in your life is great, but the big questions still keep you up at night? You write a record like Lateness of Dancers, where North Carolina’s M.C. Taylor—father to a happy family, signee to one of the world’s greatest independent labels—stakes his contentment against still nagging spiritual uncertainty. His talented friends cushion him with sparkling folk-rock that choogles warmly and shimmers with a cosmic sense of wonder. “The misery of love is a funny thing,” Taylor offers, summing up the album’s devastating duality. “The more it hurts/ The more you think/ You can stand a little pain.”


  1. Flying Lotus You’re Dead! (Warp) Forgiving a few moments when Flying Lotus’ musical reach somewhat exceeds his grasp, You’re Dead! is filled with some of the most thrilling and unlikely genre fusions to emerge in some time. During the opening tandem of “Theme” and “Tesla,” the adventurous producer drifts through Amon Tobin-esque ambient noise and Miles Davis bop with an electro-lush sheen. “Never Catch Me,” with its warped and wonderful Kendrick Lamar verse, takes Stankonia on an intergalactic odyssey back to its Funkadelic roots. Setting the past, present and future of jazz, soul and hip-hop on a level playing field, Flying Lotus relishes in their vast differences and equally profound similarities—a gesture that’s potent politically, as well as artistically.


  1. Tombs Savage Gold (Relapse) Within Savage Gold’s superheated confines, various strains of metal are melted down and repurposed, fused into surprising new alloys: The blackened gusts that begin “Portraits” harden into a shower of sludgy brimstone. “Seance” blurs the line separating crusty hardcore from torturous death metal—massaging tempos, tightening and unwinding complex guitar lines—forging a song that evokes mindless savagery and diabolical menace in equal measure. Deeply rooted in metal’s various traditions but unbound by their rigid boundaries, Tombs erupt with new possibilities.


  1. Concord America Suns Out Guns Out (Post-Echo) So breathless and belligerent are these garage upstarts that it takes a few listens to truly appreciate the Atlanta trio’s rough-and-tumble alchemy. “So Gay” sneers like Nick Cave and careens like Thee Oh Sees. “Crown Vic” force-feeds its Oblivians-worthy blitz a steady diet of burly crust-punk fuzz. The title track targets the loopy, party-loving lilt of hometown compatriots The Black Lips, instilling it with an amphetamine heartbeat and a dizzying array of twisted guitar lines. Not bad for a record that lasts just 18 minutes.




2014 Albums

  1. Gridlink – Longhena (Handshake INC)
  2. Plebieian Grandstand – Low Gazers (Throatruiner Records)
  3. Full of Hell/Merzbow – S/T (Profound Lore Records)
  4. Code Orange – I Am King (Deathwish)
  5. Single Mothers – Negative Qualities (Matador)
  6. Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)
  7. Run The Jewels – RTJ2 (Mass Appeal)
  8. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (High Top Mountain Records)
  9. The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Between Bodies (Broken Circles)
  10. Xerxes – Collision Blonde (No Sleep Records)


Honorable Mentions:

Sylvan Esso – S/T (Partisan)

Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You (Matador)

Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III Saturnian Poetry (Debemur Morti)

Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God (Profound Lore)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead (Warp)



  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  2. The Raid 2
  3. The Babadook
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. Snowpiercer
  6. Tusk
  7. They Came Together
  8. Nymphomaniac
  9. Guardians Of The Galaxy
  10. Foxcatcher




On paper, 2014 was a godforsaken year for me. Divorce after 18 years of marriage to my best friend, illness that would not go away, my dearest cousin battling cancer, depression, the list goes on. This year, the thing that kept me from taking that one last long nap (and I considered it more than once) was, primarily, my beautiful children and second, my love of music. The end of the year best of lists are always fun for me. They afford music junkies like me a chance to cast upon the world what they believe to be the best music among millions of songs and thousands of records released this year. Moreover, I have an ego and it is a solid “look at me” opportunity. Therefore, without further procrastination, here are my top five Best Albums of 2014 in no particular order.

2014 Albums

Bob Mould – Beauty and Ruin Over the past two years or so, the legendary front man of the bands Husker Du and Sugar has released two of the finest albums of his career, 2012’s “Silver Age” and this year’s Beauty and Ruin. Driven by “The War” and “I Don’t Know you Anymore,” Beauty is a slice of classic Mould: loud guitars, catchy songs, powerful lyrics and, above all else, honesty coats what he is selling.

St. Vincent – “s/t” Top notch guitarist Annie Clark aka St. Vincent has gone from a face in the crowd as a member of The Polyphonic Spree to a major artist in her own right. The self-titled “St. Vincent” is an achievement and a huge step forward toward becoming the heir apparent to Devo’s art rock throne. Check out “Birth in Reverse,” “Digital Witness,” “Rattlesnake” and “Psychopath” for proof.

Black Luck – Firebrand Hailing from Lawrence, Kansas (home to the greatest record shop in the world Lovegarden Sounds), BLACK LUCK is ready to set the world ablaze. Overcoming adversity (threatened lawsuit that necessitated a name change, no money, etc…)The band has managed to release four eps in the last two years, each building upon the next. Each a step forward in ability, quality and ferocity. Firebrand is a mix of Fugazi, Converge, Jawbreaker, Bad Religion, Bad Brains and Billy Bragg. It is in your face while still injecting melody and beauty into the chaos riddled eye of their pissed off storm. One of my favorite bands of the last five years, easily. Sure, some d-bag owned their old name, that’s ok they’ll rule the world. I have spoken.

Royal Blood- “s/t” Thank you sweet baby Jesus for allowing crunchy, molasses sludgy, rock n roll to be brought back to the forefront. Brighton, England’s Royal Blood have given us a debut that is equal parts Black Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, The Melvins and just a sprinkling of Queens of the Stone Age, breathing life into rock and hopeful killing “indie bands” like Bastille and Grizzly Bear once and for all.

Stiff Middle Fingers- Songs about Sucking At the root of it all, I am a punk rock guy. So it was beyond refreshing for Songs about Sucking to land in my mailbox. Nitro driven frontman Travis Arey and the boys mine the golden snot covered road laid before them by bands like Naked Raygun, The Descendents, Articles of Faith and Black Flag to make a furious racket all their own. Check out the songs “Common Cents,” “Psycho Bitch” and “World’s Biggest Guillotine” for a solid brass knuckle punch to your forehead.

Honorable Mentions: The New Basement Tapes Lost on the River, St. Paul and the Broken Bones Half the City, Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Jack White Lazaretto, Interpol El Pintor, Swans To Be Kind, The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream



ZACH BLOOM (Oakland, CA)

2014 Albums

St Vincent — St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)

Real Estate — Atlas (Domino)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — Days Of Abandon (Yebo Music)

Future Islands — Singles (4AD)

Sun Kil Moon — Benji (Caldo Verde)

Ex Hex — Rips (Merge)

Charli XCX — Sucker (Asylum/Atlantic)

Sharon Van Etten — Are We There (Jagjaguwar)

Wild Beasts — Present Tense (Domino)

Damon Albarn — Everyday Robots (Warner Bros.)



Iggy Azalea (feat. Charli XCX) — Fancy (Island)

Charli XCX — Boom Clap (Asylum/Atlantic)

Real Estate — Talking Backwards (Domino)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — Eurydice (Yebo Music)

Hamilton Leithauser — Alexandra (Ribbon Music)

Bombay Bicycle Club — Home By Now (Island)

TacocaT — Crimson Wave (Hardly Art)

Future Islands — Seasons (Waiting On You) (4AD)

Cloud Nothings — I’m Not Part of Me (Carpark)

Sharon Van Etten — Our Love (Jagjaguwar)




2014 Albums

Benjamin Booker – s/t (ATO) Reverend Gary Davis and the Velvet Underground not only co-exist, they jam in Booker’s music. The production is field song-punk verite, all rock salt and grime. The songs are sturdy and roiling from the soul. – Booker’s guitar a punk-metallic force, his vocals like Ted Hawkins singing with the Pixies.


Sloan – Commonwealth (Yep Roc) Their eleventh album finds the Canadian quartet giving a “side” to each of the four musicians. While their individual proclivities and qualities emerge, it’s clearly Sloan – the best pop band in the world (since Super Furry Animals, who contested the crown, are no more).


Vashti Bunyan – Heartleap (Fat Cat) It took her 35 years to record a sophomore album, after releasing the (eventually) influential sleeper Another Diamond Day; Lookaftering was a lovely song suite with gorgeous arrangements from composer Max Richter. Heartleap follows Lookaftering by a mere nine years. A self-produced affair, recorded privately and quietly for private, quiet listening.


Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress (Dualtone) The studious, earnest “New Basement Tapes” have their moments, but the Felices are closer to the loose, ragged spirit of the original “Basement Tapes,” and a lot more fun.


Ex-hex – Rips (Merge) From Helium’s density, to Wild Flag’s super-woman jam rock to this – Mary Timony’s new band delivers a straight up pop-punk album. Just when Timony’s vocals start to sound a little too Smith College she flashes signs of Patti Smith inspiration, and her Thunders-esque guitar, plus the drumming of Laura Harris, keeps the music rocking.


Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture) Pavement – blah, blah, blah. But Parquet Courts reflect the Monochrome Set, Richard Hell, and the Embarrassment, too. On this, their deepest and rangiest album, Parquet Courts rock dirtier, harder and more driven than Malkmus and company ever did.


Lykke Li – I Never Learn (LL/Atlantic) Lykke Li follows her breakthrough, Wounded Rhymes, with a record, despite a few pop moments, that is a slower, darker and more exposed set of songs. Like some Piaf for a new age, her songs of heartbreak and defiance thrill and charm.


Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City) Ty Segall, a modern garage-pop Bach, is often too prolific for his own good. Manipulator, though, hits (mostly) on all cylinders and reveals many layers of the artist’s talents. Just enough hooks, just enough irreverent smack.


War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) Before I got lazy and preoccupied with life I wrote this for Blurt (but now I’m back!):


Real Kids – Shake … Outta Control (Ace of Hearts) It’s an admittedly sentimental pick. A little jerry-built, all studs showing – it won’t make anyone forget their iconic debut from 1977. But as his work with the Devotions demonstrated, Shake proves that John Felice is still rocking.



 Velvet Underground – s/t 45th Anniversary Deluxe edition. (Polydor) The Val Valentin mix, the mono mix, the “Closet Mix” (Lou’s vocals forward, instruments panned hard right and left) – all gathered together in one place. The quality of the two-discs of live material from the Matrix in San Francisco is remarkable; and so is the playing – loose, spirited, Lou and Sterling in guitar hero mode.






2014 Albums

  1. Mary Gauthier — Trouble and Love (In The Black Records) The follow-up to 2010’s The Foundling, Trouble and Love is just as powerful, harrowing and, ultimately, life-affirming. This eight-track song cycle chronicles the end of a love affair and its aftermath. Trouble and Love proves beyond a doubt that Mary Gauthier is one of the best singer-songwriters working today. Hard to choose a favorite song but if pressed, I’d probably go with “How You Learn to Live Alone.”
  2. Ben Watt — Hendra (Unmade Road) The first album in three decades from the male half of Everything But The Girl is well worth the wait. Hendra‘s highlights range from the ballads “Matthew Arnold’s Field” and “The Levels” — both of which deal with the death of loved ones — to the edgy sociopolitical commentary of “The Gun” and the sad but surging “Forget.”
  3. Counting Crows — Somewhere Under Wonderland (Capitol) Counting Crows return with a concise album that proves Adam Duritz is still the king of pain — and that his six bandmates know how to take that pain and wrap in a varied and effective set of musical backdrops.
  4. The Empty Hearts — self titled (429 Records) The debut effort from The Empty Hearts — a supergroup featuring alumni of The Cars, The Romantics and Blondie — offers a fresh take on the garage rock and power pop that prompted its members to play music in the first place.
  5. Jackson Browne — Standing in the Breach (Inside Recordings) Browne’s first album in six years features a combination of personal and political songs. The title track and “Which Side” fall into the latter category. But the opener, “Birds of St. Marks,” is actually a love song Browne wrote in the ’60s but which remained unrecorded until now and which echoes his classic work.
  6. Broken Bells — After the Disco (Columbia) The sophomore set from James Mercer and Danger Mouse offers the perfect soundtrack to an autumn night on the town….
  7. Suzanne Vega — Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles (Amanuensis Productions) Vega’s first album of new material since 2007, well produced by guitarist Gerry Leonard, finds her mainly in signature story-telling mode. But it also includes one of her best-ever rockers, “I Never Wear White.”
  8. U2 — Songs of Innocence (Interscope) The hype surrounding the new disc by Bono and the boys initially put me off listening to it. But once I gave it a try, I had to admit it was a very good album on its own merits that really didn’t need Apple to help sell it. U2 pay homage to their past on this album, whether on the pulsing “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now” — which is dedicated to the late Joe Strummer — or on quieter numbers like “Song for Someone,” “The Troubles” and “Iris (Hold Me Close)” — which is about Bono’s late mother.
  9. Temples — Sun Structures (Fat Possum) Listen to the debut by this young band from Kettering, England and you’d swear it was recorded in 1967. These guys wear their influences on their paisley sleeves — and for the most part, it works.
  10. Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls — Soul Brothers (Catfood Records)

Two veteran soul men team up for an album that mixes originals with covers of classics like Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”


Honorable Mention:

  1. Catie Curtis — Flying Dream (Catie Curtis Records)
  2. Puss N’ Boots — No Fools, No Fun (Blue Note)
  3. Mike Farris — Shine for All the People (Compass)
  4. Mary Lambert — Heart on My Sleeve (Capitol)
  5. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers — Hypnotic Eye (Reprise)



  1. Suzanne Vega — Close-Up Series box set (Amanuensis Productions)
  2. The Kinks — The Essential Kinks (Sony Legacy)
  3. The Dream Academy — The Morning Lasted All Day (Real Gone Records)
  4. Various Artists — 20 Years (Ruf Records)
  5. Tears for Fears — Songs from the Big Chair, deluxe edition (Island/Universal)


Music Books

Through the Eye of the Tiger by Jim Peterik with Lisa Torem


In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death

Pete Seeger, Joe Cocker, Joe Sample, Jack Bruce and Tommy Ramone — take your pick. And if we can include people outside the music industry, most definitely Maya Angelou and Philip Seymour Hoffman.



Begin Again: A charming film about music, love and New York City. Great cast led by the ridiculously likable Mark Ruffalo (who also played a great role this year in “Foxcatcher”).


Best Concert

Ben Watt… twice! First at Joe’s Pub and more recently at Le Poisson Rouge, both in NYC. Watt’s first American solo shows in decades were intimate affairs that touched on various stages of his career and proved emotional not only for him but for many of us who were in the audience.

Best Label

Real Gone Music


Best New Artist

Mary Lambert


Worst New Artist

Charli XCX


Asshole of the Year

Robin Thicke


2015 Release I Am Most Anticipating

The next studio album from Rickie Lee Jones


Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend

I’m not even sure where to begin… Do I go with the fact that more record and book stores than ever have gone out of business? That more legends are leaving us as the first generation of rock and rollers enters their golden years? That record companies continue to fall victim to consolidation, affecting not only the number of talented artists that get signed but also the number of staff members needed to work those artists? That commercial radio stations continue to tighten their playlists while ignoring all the great music that’s out there? That Jon Bon Jovi keeps touring and releasing albums despite the fact that he never had anything interesting to say in the first place? Hell, I’ll go with all of the above.

Wildcard: 50 Words From or About Me

I’m originally from Connecticut but have lived in New York City for many years. Have been writing about music professionally since 1999 for radio, print and the Internet. Personally, 2014 was a year of highs and lows with little in between… And aside from the January and February, it was probably the fastest year yet. Definitely a good year for music despite the continued efforts of the music business to sabotage it.




2014 albums

St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)

D’Angelo & the Vanguard – Black Messiah (RCA)

Spoon – They Want My Soul (Loma Vista/Republic)

Cloud Nothings – Here & Nowhere Else (Carpark)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain)

The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)

Robert Plant – Lullaby… and the Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch)

Iceage – Plowing into the Field of Love (Matador)

Ex Hex – Rips (Merge)

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)

Honorable mention: Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar), Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguwar), White Lung – Deep Fantasy (Domino), Prince – Art Official Age (Warner Bros.), Woods – With Light and Love (Woodsist), Real Estate – Atlas (Domino), Benjamin Booker (ATO)


Bob Dylan & the Band – The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete (Legacy)

Led Zeppelin – Reissue series (Rhino)

The Velvet Underground 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (UMe)

Grateful Dead – Wake Up to Find Out: Nassau Coliseum 3/29/90 (Rhino)

Sleater-Kinney – Start Together (Sub Pop)

I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-70 (Light in the Attic)

Yo La Tengo – Extra Painful (Matador)

Country Funk Volume II: 1967-1974 (Light in the Attic)



Goshen ’97 – Strand of Oaks (Dead Oceans)

Seasons (Waiting on You) – Future Islands (4AD)

Turtles All the Way Down – Sturgill Simpson (High Top Mountain)

Lights Out – Angel Olsen (Jagjaguwar)

Under the Pressure – The War on Drugs (Secretly Canadian)

I’m Not Part of Me – Cloud Nothings (Carpark)



The Replacements/The Hold Steady – 9/19, Forest Hills, NY

St Vincent – 8/9, Brooklyn, NY

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – 7/26, Brooklyn, NY

Mark Kozelek – 3/14, Austin, TX

The National – 6/19, Brooklyn, NY





2014 Albums

Sleaford Mods – Austerity Dogs (Harbinger Sound)

tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack (4AD)

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (Sony)

Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt (Kanine)

Marianne Faithfull – Give My Love To London (Easy Sound)

Jack White – Lazaretto (Third Man)

Amy Ray – Goodnight Tender (Daemon)

Mayday! and Murs – ¡MursDay! (Strange Music)

Gordon Voidwell – Bad Etudes (no label)

Charli XCX – Sucker (Atlantic)



Jon Hassell/Brian Eno – Fourth World- Possible Musics Vol. 1 (Glitterbeat)

Various Artists – Gipsy Rhumba – The Original Rhythm of Gipsy Rhumba in

Spain 1965 – 1974 (Soul Jazz)

Various Artists – C86 – The Deluxe Edition (Cherry Red)

Matt Nelkin – Boombap Riddims (Liquid Beat)

Fugazi – First Demo (Dischord)

Various Artists – Super Black Blues (Ace)

Various Artists – The Last Shout! Twilight of the Blues Shouters 1954-1962

(Fantastic Voyage)

The “5” Royales – Soul and Swagger (Rockbeat)

Hank Williams – The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 (Omnivore)

Half Japanese – Volume 1 1981-1985 (Fire)



ZHU Ft. Sean Dee “Faded (Remix)” (no label)

Mark Morrison “Return Of The Mack (SNBRN Remix)” ( Boy

“Railway (Daniele Di Martino Edit)” (Soundcloud)

Beyonce “Partition” (Parkwood)

Only Real “Pass the Pain” (Harvest)

A-Trak featuring Andrew Wyatt “Push” (Fool’s Gold)

Metronomy “Love Letters” (Because)

  1. Cole “Be Free” (Dreamville)

Maddie and Tae “Girl In A Country Song” (Dot)



Thomas Brothers – Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism

Harvey Kubernik – Turn Up the Radio!: Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles


Joel Selvin – Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the

Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

Amanda Petrusich – Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records

Eilon Paz – Dust and Grooves- Adventures in Record Collecting



Nas- Time Is Illmatic

Super Duper Alice Cooper

God Help the Girl

Get On Up




Maddie and Tae “Girl In A Country Song”

The Last Skeptik “Hero Mask – A Short Film Presentation about Assassination”

Sidi Toure “L’eau; The Water”

Benny “Little Games”

“These Young Iranians Arrested for Recording Tehran Version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy””


Best Record Label



Best New Artist



Best Album Packaging

Jack White – Lazaretto


Hero of the Year/Coolest Trend

Tie- Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle for reminding us that the best comedians can be the best truth-tellers


Worst Trend

Sony caving in to hackers over ‘The Interview’ and setting a REALLY dangerous precedent and was so bad that they had to scramble to try to backtrack over it



Buzzcocks- Webster Hall- Sept 2014

The Julie Ruin with Screaming Females & Shellshag- Asbury Lanes Apr 12, 2014

Replacements/Hold Steady/Deer Tick at Forest Hills stadium- Sept 19, 2014



2015 Album I’m Anticipating

Kanye West or Sleater-Kinney


In Memoriam

Eric Garner, Michael Brown




2014 Albums

The Antlers – Familiars (Anti-)

Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread (Blue Note)

Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans  (ATO)

Future Islands – Singles (4AD)

The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers (Matador)

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguar)

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)

Tune Yards – Nicki Nack (4AD)

The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)

Lucinda Williams – Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (Highway 20)



Tim Hinely (Denver, CO)

2014 Albums

Dean Wareham- S/T

Literature- Chorus (Slumberland)

Lydia Loveless- Somewhere Else (Bloodshot)

Alvvays- S/T (Polyvinyl)

Connections- Into Sixes (Anyway)

Ex Hex- RIPS (Merge)

First Aid Kid- Stay Gold (Columbia)

The Gotobeds- Poor People Are Revolting (12XU)

The Hobbes Fan Club- Up at La Grange (Shelflife)

The Zebras- Siesta (Jigsaw)

Ausmuteants- Order of Operation (Goner)

The New Pornographers- Brill Bruisers (Matador)

Gold-Bears- Dalliance (Slumberland)

Jonly Bonly- Put Together (12XU)

Lunchbox- Lunchbox Loves You (Jigsaw)

Luluc- Passerby (Sub Pop)

Trick Mammoth- Floristry (Fishrider)

Ark Life- The Dream of You & Me (Greater Than Collective)

Withered Hand- New Gods (Slumberland)

The Men- Tomorrow’s Hits (Sacred Bones)

2014 Archival Collections

The Chills- BBC Sessions (Fire)

Donna Loren- These Are the Good Times: The Complete Capitol Recordings (The Now Sounds/ Cherry Red)

St. Christopher- Forevermore Starts Here: The Anthology 1984-2010 (Cherry Red)

Tar- 1988-1995 (Chunklet)

Further- Where Were You Then ? 1991-1997 (Bad Paintings)

Strawberry Story – Gravy (self released)

The Bluebells- Exile on Twee Street: Songs form Glasgow 1980-1982 (Cherry Red)

Peggy Lipton- The Complete Ode Recordings (Real Gone Music)

Pugwash- A Rose in the Garden of Weeds (Omnivore Recordings)

The Mighty Lemon Drops- Uptight: The Early Recordings 1985-1986 (Cherry Red)



Bedhead- 1992- 1998 (The Control Group)

Yo La Tengo- Extra Painful (Matador)

Big Star- #1 Record and Radio City (Stax/ Concord Music Group)

Crayon- Brick Factory (HHBTM)

The Posies- Failure (Omnivore Recordings)



















2014 IN REVIEW: The Blurt Top 100 Albums


Angel Olsen, Sturgill Simpson, War On Drugs, Lucinda Williams, Run the Jewels, Sun Kil Moon, Ty Segall, Warpaint, Thurston Moore, Sharon Van Etten and 80 more indie gems—who woulda thunk it? And we’ve got more than just indie-rock; below find nods to sundry blues, metal, folk and hip-hop as well, even a grudging admiration for mainstream pop tart Charli XCX. And check our appendix rounding up a sampling of archival releases and reissues following the Top 100. Let’s do this…


We’ve said it before so might as well say it again: It was the best of years, it was the worst of years, it was…. somewhere in between. But still the proverbial music geek’s paradise. So as usual, we couldn’t stop at just a Top 10, or a Top 25, or even a Top 50 —hell, last year we went all the way to 75, an exhausting endeavor to say the least. Might as well make it a solid 100. (And yes, it’s a shameless excuse to cram as much cheerleading into this space as possible. You got a problem with that? Go start your own magazine or blog, schmuck!)

We’ve also said this before and we’re saying it again: please feel free to slap that person standing next to you who is griping about not hearing anything good this year. He/she’s an idiot. Or at least mighty lazy.

As usual, we’ve tried to factor in the fave raves of our many contributing writers (go HERE to read their individual lists for 2014), the peculiar biases of the Editor—trust us, they are indeed peculiar—plus sundry less-quantifiable measures that our highly skilled team of office interns employed in order to arrive at that golden Top 50, like which artists had the cutest boyfriends or girlfriends, or which labels put them on the guest list when their artists came to town. But in the end, we don’t take it all that seriously. List-making is supposed to be fun, not an obligation. Bottom line: no excess navel gazing here; no what everything means, maaan… from your friendly neighborhood BLURT. Below, we present our list. (Meanwhile, go HERE to view our list of notable deaths in the music world this past year.)

Also check out our 2013 and 2012 coverage:

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012



ALBUM OF THE YEAR: ANGEL OLSENBurn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar) WE SAID: Olsen (pictured at the top of the page; photo by Autumn Northcraft) is a contradictory mix of Marissa Nadler’s ethereal spookiness, Sharon Van Etten’s unsettling intensity, and PJ Harvey’s ability to rock hard then float high within a single breath. From opening track “Unfucktheworld,” with its inevitable but laudable overtones of another Chicago songbird, Liz Phair; through dreamy, nocturnal waltz “White Fire” and jagged, blazing Velvets-styled stomper “High & Wild” (a brilliantly accurate songtitle, incidentally); all the way to minimalist, acoustic-guitar-and-voice album denouement “Enemy” and gospellish, hymnal coda “Windows,” which sets Olsen’s tremulous pipes on full flight, weaving in and around themselves like some ghostly duet; each track here is utterly dissimilar, yet sonically intertwined to such a degree that the record comes off like a classic song cycle. Thematically, Olsen seems to be operating at an elevated sensory state, one in which a constant internal dialogue is raging. And she rises to the challenge she sets for herself, traversing an emotional spectrum that leaves the listener gasping with empathy and drained from the shared exertion. Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a mutual journey in every sense of the term, the signpost of a brave new artist right on the cusp of greatness.


  1. STURGILL SIMPSON – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (High Top/Thirty Tigers) WE SAID: Damned if this sophomore set by country crooner Sturgill Simpson doesn’t sound like an audio postcard all the way from Luckenbach, Texas. Or at least that’s what Simpson would have us believe, given his rugged delivery and an assertive mix of grit and swagger. Simpson wastes no time in establishing his debt to Cash, Kris, Waylon and others of that outlaw ilk. And while the title might suggest headier circumstances, these nine songs are dusty and determined, stoic ruminations on hard luck and happenstance.


  1. WAR ON DRUGS – Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian) WE SAID: Adam Granduciel’s dream sounds like an updating and reimagining of the very Seventies from which the band’s namesake sprang. Specifically, it sounds like the Seventies gestalt of Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne, wide screen white-soul narratives, filtered through the Eighties and its lusher, synthesizer suffused, travelogues – albums from Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. to Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold, and all with the sonorous, melancholy patina of Disintegration era Cure. Lost in the Dream is, well, dreamlike. And it’s about loss. What kind of dream? What sort of loss? As Granduciel repeats in the title track, “it’s always hard to tell.”


  1. LUCINDA WILLIAMS – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20 Records) It’s an unapologetic throwback to vintage country soul/funk swamp-pop—it actually sounds like it might’ve been cut in Memphis or at Muscle Shoals, but in fact it was done at a studio in North Hollywood—while still conjuring the contradictory elements that made us fall in love with Williams in the first place: saucy-yet-sensitive vocals, abetted by rutting-in-the-dirt twang and leavened-by-angels jangle; plus intimate turns of phrase betraying the hurt of an old soul and the ecstasy of one eternally young. There’s an uncommon depth here that hasn’t been evidenced on Williams records in ages, both in the sonics (an immaculately crafted blend of intimate and widescreen) and the lyrics, which at times are deeply confessional and others downright defiant as the songwriter stares down her demons, the vicissitudes of relationships and the rampant idiocy of the outside world.


  1. SUN KIL MOON – Benji (Caldo Verde) WE SAID: Death, death, death, death. The Pale Rider gallops through Mark Kozelek’s latest LP via every imaginable avenue. That’s the real story behind Benji — the middle-age awakening of mortality as the friends, relatives and acquaintances who people our lives lose theirs, leaving behind only memories. Kozelek has stripped down the songcraft here to put the emphasis even more squarely on the stories. Since 2010’s Admiral Fell Promises, Kozelek’s relied on the warm tones of nylon acoustic guitar to accompany his nocturnal tales, double-tracking his vocals or adding strings for depth and texture. Benji’s songs rely almost entirely on repeated finger-picked patterns rather than strummed chord progressions, and only rarely does Kozelek switch up instrumentation.


  1. RUN THE JEWELS – RTJ2 (Mass Appeal) WE SAID: Killer Mike’s second tag-team effort with fellow incendiary mastermind El-P reflects the chaos that was 2014. Brimming with violent charisma and razor-sharp braggadocio, social unrest is the subtext for every punishing rhyme, and the beats and verses escalate with hypnotic perfection.


  1. TY SEGALL – Manipulator (Drag City) WE SAID: Segall’s back in all his messy, glammy, garagey glory, with what just may turn out to be one of 2014’s finest full-on rawk excursions. Stones, T. Rex, Thin Lizzy and, er, Bay City Rollers fans can only fall to their knees, gnash their teeth and rend their clothes in the face of such godlike genius. With more guitars per capita here than a barrelful of cheap-ass Sears Silvertones, Saint Ty blasts out the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am boogie, sweetly serenades in waltz-time, strings-laden reverie, goes all faux-funk for the Nuggets set, and out-teenybops pretty much every pop combo.


  1. WARPAINT – Warpaint (Rough Trade) WE SAID: Produced by U2/Depeche Mode/PJ Harvey co-conspirator Flood, Warpaint is an odd, atmospheric take on the group’s patented groove rock. Arrangements seemingly arrive on a breeze, rather than through a combination of instruments, while Emily Kokal’s voice floats above, between and through the ripples like a curious ghost. Electronic sounds dominate, despite the two-guitars/bass/drums format, but this doesn’t sound like a producer imposing his will on an artist – rather the latter choosing the right studio rat to bring its ephemeral visions to life.


  1. THURSTON MOORE – The Best Day (Matador) WE SAID: The Best Day finds Moore in “accessible” mode while still chock-full of his blazing fretwork and trademark dissonance-mongering. It’s the Sonic Youth album that Sonic Youth fans feared would never happen in the wake of the band’s split in 2011 (which itself followed in the wake of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s marriage breakup). Clearly, Moore has become restless over the past few years, and we, his fans, are the beneficiaries of that restlessness.


10. SHARON VAN ETTEN – Are We There (Jagjaguwar) WE SAID: What hints we got on her previous albums (notably 2012’s masterful Tramp) were just that – hint. Now, though, the combined rawness of scraped-knuckle emotion and sublime sleekness of the songwriter’s enticing melodies and arrangements makes for one of the year’s most genuine – and convincing – efforts. Attention, major media outlets: Van Etten is a major star. We’re already blinded; are you?


… and all the rest….


SYVAN ESSO – Sylvan Esso (Partisan) WE SAID: Possibly the Tarheel State’s most breakout artist in ages, Sylvan Esso – Amelia Meath (formerly with Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (a sometimes member of Megafaun) — build a better mousetrap with their full-length debut, which follows up their frankly remarkable 12” single “Hey Mami” in fine fashion. With Meath’s intricate, overlapping vocals given a range of cocoon-like vessels (Sanborn’s electronics, natch) within which she burrows deep, you’ve also got one of the most ear-worm offerings from North Carolina – or any stage – in eons.


RYAN ADAMS – Ryan Adams (PaxAmericana Recording Company/Blue Note) WE SAID: This is the best thing Adams has ever done, rich in sonic depth and lyric nuance, boasting an expansive widescreen ambiance while still pulling the listener in close, intimate. It just might even edge out Whiskeytown’s 1997 masterpiece Strangers Almanac, which for a lot of Adams fans has always been the impossibly high bar he set early in his career, one which he’s been trying to hit with his solo albums ever since. Every tune serves the moment, like a series of self-contained filmic miniatures whose character sketches, though brief, are utterly memorable, with those sketches’ accompanying sonics just as resonant. An unabashedly classic rock record, it at times verges on homage but never slips into parody or cliché.


U2- Songs of Innocence (Interscope) WE SAID: The hype surrounding the new disc by Bono and the boys initially put a lot of folks off actually listening to it. But ultimately they didn’t need Apple to help sell it. U2 pay homage to their past on this album, whether on the pulsing “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now” — which is dedicated to the late Joe Strummer — or on quieter numbers like “Song for Someone,” “The Troubles” and “Iris (Hold Me Close)” — which is about Bono’s late mother.


GOV’T MULE – Dark Side of the Mule (Evil Teen) WE SAID: The idea Warren Haynes & Co. paying tribute to the legendary Pink Floyd should make music fans slobbery. And this set, recorded on Halloween 2008 in Boston, exceeds all expectations. Mule, joined by saxophonist Ron Holloway and two of Floyd’s actual backing vocalists, nails Floyd’s sublime atmospheric sound while infusing it with that trademark Gov’t Mule slow burn. It’s a captivating, one-sitting listen that will leave you nearly speechless.


JACK WHITE – Lazaretto (Third Man) WE SAID: (1) Gawd, I loved the White Stripes. I wanted to be Meg White, because I was an aspiring rock drummer, sooooooo bad. I miss her terribly, too, but that isn’t stopping me from wanting to be in Jack White’s band! Lazaretto is both an indie-rocker’s dream and an enticing proposition for fans of old-school kickass, bluesy crud. (2) Skinny sweaty man in a blue shirt: Amidst an intense light show with spectral blues and oranges, Jack White and his band also toured. White’s soaring, searing guitars were the highlight amidst expert musicianship.


SPIDER BAGS – Frozen Letter (Merge) WE SAID: The Chapel Hill band allegedly recorded this one just for fun, with little intention of ever releasing it. You know a group has hit its stride when even its goof offs are worth releasing. This eight-track album finds them experimenting just a bit, especially on the sweet, acoustic track “Walking Bubble,” but for the bulk of the record it’s all loud guitars and crashing drums competing against Dan McGee’s deep vocals.


REIGNING SOUND – Shattered (Merge) WE SAID: Apparently Greg Cartwright exorcised his punk rock demons with the Oblivians’ Desperation, as Shattered is the band’s most accessible record yet. Recorded at Daptone Studios and given a warm, dry sound that doesn’t allow for distortion overload, the songs deserve kind treatment in any case. The measured energy and lack of noise may strike some as sacrilege – this is a band that used to give even its poppiest tunes a good thrashing. But Cartwright’s writing has gotten more sophisticated over the course of the band’s career, so who can blame him for wanting people to hear it without interference?


FLYING LOTUS – You’re Dead! (Warp) WE SAID: Filled with some of the most thrilling and unlikely genre fusions to emerge in some time, from Amon Tobin-esque ambient noise and Miles Davis bop with an electro-lush sheen to Stankonia on an intergalactic odyssey back to its Funkadelic roots, it sets the past, present and future of jazz, soul and hip-hop on a level playing field.


SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS – Give The People What They Want (Daptone) WE SAID: A 10-song set of soulful sonic manna. From the Holland/Dozier/Holland-isms of opening cut “Retreat!” and the stiletto-heeled, girl-group vibe of “We Get Along” to the sinewy swamp-funk of “Long Time, “Wrong Time” and the gorgeous torch-song jazz of “Slow Down Love,” there’s nary a moment missed by the band to demonstrate that Sharon Jones is one of the greatest female vocalist currently operating.


MARK MCGUIRE – Along the Way (Dead Oceans) WE SAID: The erstwhile multi-instrumentalist for Cleveland electronic band Emeralds has been compared to fellow composers Four Tet and Julianna Barwick, while classic psychedelia further informs his sonic visions (elements of everyone from Krautrock legends Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream to west coast avatars Quicksilver Messenger Service and pre-American Beauty Grateful Dead can be detected) as he follows a lush kosmiche path directly into the heart of a contemporary New Age sun. Along The Way sounds remarkably fresh and vital, in fact, the mark of a gifted musician trying to incorporate his philosophical yearnings into a concrete manifestation that can be shared at will.


THE MUFFS – Whoop De Doo (Burger) WE SAID: This veteran (since ’91) L.A. combo still makes a deliriously loud pop-punk sound, and the fact that it’s been absent from the record bins for a decade makes the racket all that more righteous. Whoop De Doo finds feisty frontwoman Kim Shattuck abetted by longtime Muffsmen Roy McDonald and Ronnie Barnett on a dozen hi-nrg, tuneful gems with the same kind of vim ‘n’ vigor that marked their teenage selves’ efforts.


PROTOMARTYR — Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art) WE SAID: This is the best punk rock record you’ll hear this year — never mind that it’s not wholly or even really a punk rock record. Mad ingenuity warps the day-to-day here. Maybe it’s life in the group’s Detroit headquarters, or maybe poets in the heartland have always been deranged by the quotidian. In any case, there’s a violence and fury in these songs that transcends their subject matter, as punk rock has always blasted its blighted points of origin—London in the 1970s, Manchester in the 1980s, Orange County in the 1990s — into surreal landscapes of alienation, rage and black humor.


CHARLI XCX – Sucker (Atlantic) WE SAID: For a young gal who “just wants to break the rules,” as the bratty brit proclaims near the beginning of the album, Charli XCX doesn’t even bend much in the way of rules, much less break ‘em. But despite Sucker hewing pretty close to the 2014 dance-pop rulebook, there’s still something compellingly infectious to these songs. Like Blondie, Bow Wow Wow and even the Ronettes before her, Ms. XCX understands that for pop to be subversive, it doesn’t have to be obscure – just fun.


SHOVELS & ROPE – Swimmin’ Time (Dualtone) WE SAID: There’s a confidence here, even a swagger, that denotes a band that knows what it likes and how to make it happen. The duo revels in its multi-instrumental facility, expansive song-authoring and homespun harmonies with the easy assurance of veteran road dogs. The band’s storytelling skills have sharpened as well, the band displaying a firm grip on its craft.


EVERYMEN – Giving Up on Free Jazz (Ernest Jennings) WE SAID: On their second full-length, this nonet come across like a ginned up, Jersey-fied version of X, scorching guitars and boy/girl vocals cast in vintage rock framework, slathered in dirty horns and dyed in communal punk attitude. The lasting impression suggests a blue collar band in it for the joy of rocking asses and playing together – a Jersey blueprint that’s worked before.


DAVID KILGOUR AND THE HEAVY 8’S – End Times Undone (Merge) WE SAID: Kilgour has been honing his songwriting skills for over three decades, skillfully burnishing his lilting songwriting and mastering his guitar playing. Lightning captured in a bottle is the final result, and a rapturous listening experience for us. What you end up with on End Times Undone, is a trance-y, pop-psych, hypno-rhythmic romp that showcases a group of players that have magically meshed into a single hive-mind, behind the very talented Mr. K., at the top of his game.


HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER — (1) Bad Debt (Paradise of Bachelors; reissue) (2) Lateness of Dancers (Merge) WE SAID: (1) Bad Debt is elementally simple, just the thrum of chords, the fire-lit spark and shadow of North Carolina’s M.C. Taylor’s voice, yet it packs a gut punch. It considers destitution from a variety of angles, the hardness of work, the bleakness of prospects, the consolation of faith, the eventual release of death. (2) How do you react when everything in your life is great, but the big questions still keep you up at night? You write a record like Lateness of Dancers where Taylor—father to a happy family, signee to one of the world’s greatest independent labels—stakes his contentment against still nagging spiritual uncertainty. His talented friends cushion him with sparkling folk-rock that choogles warmly and shimmers with a cosmic sense of wonder.


STEVE GUNN – Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors) WE SAID: Steve Gunn is a special sort of virtuoso. He’s not really flashy, in-your-face or starving to completely innovate. He’s subtle about it, careful even, but one thing’s for sure: the man sounds damn cool doing it. He can switch genres, moods and effects on a dime and not sound pretentious while doing it. His ability to arrange is masterful and, on Way Out Weather, he establishes this sort of psychedelic roots sound that exists outside of about any recognizable genre or even sub-genre. And that’s why it kicks ass.


PARQUET COURTS – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rapture?/Mom+Pop) WE SAID: Having studied at the grimy, sneakered feet of the punk masters in their salad days, they’ve done them proud by keenly adapting, reflecting and reinterpreting that classic grittiness. You hear unmistakable streaks of deference to, and inspiration from, such classic punkers as the Replacements, Minor Threat, Descendents, Pavement, Sonic Youth, the Modern Lovers and the Velvet Underground, to name but a few. Anyone with a fondness for such bands, can sit back and grin at how they’ve taken all that punkitude and masticated it into their own original music.


JOHNNY MARR – Playland (New Voodoo) WE SAID: The follow-up to the none-too-shabby The Messenger: if that album was the best album the Smiths never recorded, then this is simply better than any albums the Smiths ever recorded. Marr has firmly come into his own as a singer, matching his fretboard prowess and proving his mettle as a consummate craftsman.


DUM DUM GIRLS – Too True (Sub Pop) WE SAID: Pulsing with an ‘80s New Wave vibe and recalling everyone from Blondie to Berlin to Siouxsie & the Banshees, the Dum Dum Girls’ follow-up to 2011’s Only In Dreams is an auralgasm par excellence for fans of lush, sensual femmepop. It offers a contemporary twist upon Phil Spector’s girl-group wall-of-sound, crafting lush cocoons of noise that, while at times edgy and crackling with tension, envelop rather than assault.


FLOATING ACTION – Body Questions (New West) WE SAID: Aww yeah, here we go: school us, Uncle Seth! That would be Seth Kauffman, who hails from the, ahem, scholarly confines of Black Mountain, NC, near Asheville, a bastion of blue-tinted culture surrounded by a sea of crimson. (Look it up.) He’s a friggin’ dynamo of exposition, a guardian of extrapolation, and a songcraftsman of the highest order, part indie-rock, part vintage boogie, part classic pop, 100% inspiration.


LEE FIELDS AND THE EXPRESSIONS – Emma Jean (Truth & Soul) WE SAID: Fields and his ace band really show off their versatility, this time tilting more toward the singer’s smooth soul roots in Fields’ strongest set of songs yet. He also displays his trademark funk, of course, but the LP’s diversity succeeds because the Expressions consistently find the pocket in any style. No slight to Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley et al., but there isn’t a better pairing of soul singer and soul band going right now.


DAWNBRINGER – Night of the Hammer (Profound Lore) WE SAID: Fielding a classic metal sound somewhere between late 70s Sabbath and early Iron Maiden, Chris Black expands his thematic reach beyond the romantic confessionals of his High Spirits work, taking on war, mythology, vengeance and isolation (“Alien”). He seems most at home, though, with a series of death-fixated horror stories. Regardless of his obsessions, though, Black always maintains the strength of his tunesmanship, without stinting on the heavy.


ROSANNE CASH – The River & The Thread (Nonesuch) WE SAID: Cash strikes a gritty, resolute, no-compromise stance throughout, yet can sound both soothing and somehow foreboding all at the same time. It’s that hint of mystery and subtle uncertainty that shrouds the album overall and ensures the ongoing intrigue that’s proven Cash’s signature trait throughout this phase of her career. As the title suggests, The River & The Thread manages to surge and sway all at the same time. Indeed, it doesn’t get much better than this.


CURTIS HARDING – Soul Power (Burger) WE SAID: There seems to be a surfeit of new soul men who draw from the ‘60s and ‘70s rather than post-Babyface R&B, but if the latest arrivals are as talented as Curtis Harding, they’re welcome at the table. On Soul Power, the Michigan-born, Atlanta-based singer and guitarist eschews the roof-raising energy of Charles Bradley and the slow burn eroticism of Lee Fields for a more measured, plainspoken sound – more Al Green and Arthur Alexander than Otis Redding and James Brown. For Harding, funkiness is more a feel than a form


JON LANGFORD & SKULL ORCHARD — Here Be Monsters (In De Goot Recordings) WE SAID: Langford, a painter as well as a poet, combines both disciplines here, expanding the template he first established with the Mekons, the Waco Brothers, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, The Three Johns and the various other odd and assorted conglomerates he’s aligned himself with over the years. Here he opts to tackle his more ambitious designs, and the results are nothing less than spectacular… and surreal. And the band rocks with a vengeance.


MARISSA NADLER – July (Sacred Bones) WE SAID: Marissa Nadler’s soprano voice is like the smoothest elevator ride you’ll ever take. It rises slowly, leveling off for brief peaceful stops before resuming to reach its high – somewhere in the clouds. On July, her sixth album, the Boston singer-songwriter gets an almost-hallucinatory effect out of her singing, often multi-tracking the voice to create a ghostly pillowing effect. Strings, synths, piano, pedal steel, Nadler’s own reflective acoustic and 12-string guitar all create a sanctuary, a safe haven, for her to sing these 11 measured, stately compositions.


THE NEW BASEMENT TAPES — Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (Capitol) WE SAID: This supergroup (Elvis Costello, Jim James, Marcus Mumford, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Rhiannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops) creates a set of songs that not only measures up to The Master’s standards but stands on its own merits as well. Producer T Bone Burnett guides the proceedings with special sensitivity, taking an overall approach that’s well in keeping with the arcane trappings Dylan originally intended.


ANDERS PARKER – There’s a Bluebird in My Heart (Recorded and Freed) WE SAID: Anders Parker has rediscovered his electric guitar. The blues-rocking “Animal,” grunged-out yet elegiac “Jackbooted Thugs” and bracingly rocking “The Road” soar to the skies or dig into the dirt in a way Parker hasn’t attempted in a good long while. This isn’t to say there aren’t quieter songs here, but they sit in context, rather than dominating, and come off as that much more inviting and beautiful as a result.


ROBERT PLANT – lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch) WE SAID: Produced by Plant himself and mixed by studio wizard Tchad Blake, the follow-up to 2010’s Buddy Miller-helmed Band of Joy moves away from the atmospheric Americana that earned him a Grammy for his 2007 collaboration with country great Allison Krauss Raising Sand and closer to the sonic adventures he was toying around with on Dreamland and 2005’s The Mighty Re-Arranger. And when the 66-year-old dives into his recent obsessions with the nomadic Tuareg musicians of North Africa does lullaby truly Roar.


PSYCHO SISTERS – Up On the Chair, Beatrice (Rock Beat) WE SAID: Up On the Chair, Beatrice is a document of something that happened more than two decades ago when Vicky Peterson and Susan Cowsill first began collaborating, recorded now and sounding fresh and inspired. They recruited a drummer, bassist, keyboardist, cellist, and violinist to flesh out the acoustic arrangements the songs had once been given. Add to that Peterson’s exquisitely tasteful trademark electric guitar riffs and highly melodic solos, and you’ve got the perfect backdrop to the magical harmonies of these two talented singers.


AUTUMN DEFENSE – Fifth (Yep Roc) WE SAID: If George Harrison was known as “the quiet Beatle,” Pat Sansone and John Stirratt might be viewed as “the quiet Wilcos.” From an obvious love of the British Invasion—in particular, the Zombies, Kinks and, yes, Beatles—to an instinctual grasp of the complexities underlying West Coast sunshine pop and baroque psych (e.g., Beach Boys/Van Dyke Parks, Jimmy Webb and Love), the Autumn Defense, pure and simple, makes things look easy. Sings Sansone, “Tonight, we just gotta get the feeling right/ What is this thing that we’ve found?” What they’ve found, is pop perfection, and Fifth is a contemporary gem.


JEFFREY DEAN FOSTER – The Arrow (Angel Skull) WE SAID: NC’s Jeff Foster (ex-Right Profile, Carneys, Pinetops) still specializes in power pop-tinged Americana, with obvious reference points being Springsteen, Petty and McGuinn. But this is the kind of record that can stop you in your tracks it’s so good. For folks who like their songwriting sharp and their sonics sublime, this is the album you’ve been waiting for. And for fans of classic Southern pop—dB’s, Let’s Active, Connells, R.E.M. of course—it’s a gift of epic proportions that’ll rekindle all that jangle lust you’ve kept tucked away in your hearts these many years.


NOX BOYS – Nox Boys (Get Hip Recordings) WE SAID: Three of the musicians aren’t even out of high school, yet they perform with the ferocity of grizzled gabbers thrice their age. Give ‘em the blindfold test and you’d swear the Nox Boys were some terrific archival find resurfacing at a Cavestomp event. They understand that analog is ace and vinyl rules; that putting on skinny black jeans and hanging out at Brooklyn warehouse spaces doesn’t necessarily make you cool; and that the likes of Steely Dan and the Human League were and always will be the enemy. These kids are the Real Effin’ Deal, whether you’re talking straight up Nuggets raveups, turbocharged Stones/Kinks R&B swagger or Black Lips-styled supah-skronk.


THE LEES OF MERMORY – Sisyphus Says (SideOneDummy Records) WE SAID: Although two-thirds of the band is comprised of Superdrag vets, the sound here is a pretty big step away from the infectious Power Pop the Knoxville band was known for. John Davis and Brandon Fisher, along with Nick Slack, opt for a much more wide-ranging atmospheric sound, trading jangly riffs for swirling guitars.


TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS — Hypnotic Eye (Warner Bros.) WE SAID: While its somewhat cerebral title might suggest otherwise, Hypnotic Eye places its emphasis on strictly visceral appeal. The album affirms the fact they remain an austere and unapologetic outfit, which has pretty much been their mantra since the start. After nearly 40 years, it’s almost reassuring in a way to find Petty’s still so full of purpose.


A-BONES – Ears Wide Shut (Norton) WE SAID: The A-Bones songs are loud, trashy and fun and it seems like producer James McNew wanted them to be in the red as fast as they could go. Lots of overloaded guitar and plenty of howling for a rockin’ good time. Give those Black Keys records a rest and try on the A-Bones for size. I’ve got the Brannock Device waiting for you.


SYD ARTHUR – Sound Mirror (Harvest) WE SAID: The Canterbury band draws from the late 60s and early 70s music of its birthplace, that quirky, jazzy psychedelic pop that unsurprisingly found favor with prog rock audiences of the time. By concentrating on that era’s virtues – accessible melodies, deft musicianship, an inviting sense of whimsy – Syd Arthur avoids any whiff of trendiness and just gets down to the business of writing and performing timeless music on its second record Sound Mirror.


BOBBY BARE JR. – Undefeated (Bloodshot) On his most ambitious record to date, Bobby Bare Jr. and his band add a more liberal mix of rock to their normal punkish country brew and the result is one of their most consistently satisfying records so far. His vocals are delivered with such breezy casualness, you almost miss the poetry in the words. Pair that with the brilliant musicianship and it’s simply confounding that Bare and his band aren’t as big as groups like Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket at this point.


SO COW – The Long Con (Goner) WE SAID: Brian Kelly is feeling his age in the way that only a late twentysomething can. His exuberant punk pop pummels and bristles; like Deerhoof, Kelly sets his tunes on edge and occasionally tips them over, but they do seem to bounce right back. His songs are gruffly, engagingly buoyant, charged with a youthful energy if not enthusiasm. He’s like a Billy Bragg without the politics, like a Cloud Nothings that acknowledges the ridiculousness of its own angst. He’s sharp and sarcastic and looking right down the hole into middle age, but he hasn’t given up a bit of his edge in the process.


WHITEHORSE – Leave No Bridge Unburned (Six Shooter) WE SAID: The third album by this Canadian duo, led by multi-talented spouses Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, is a decidedly dark affair, one marked by raging rhythms and a somewhat stealth-like demeanor. Nevertheless, the Polaris Prize-nominated pair seem fond of purveying their angular melodies with a razor-sharp edge. McClelland’s sultry vocals and Doucet’s imaginative guitar spin a seductive web of elusive intents.


CORY BRANAN – No-Hit Wonder (Bloodshot) WE SAID: Self-deprecating title aside, the record is a brilliant snapshot of one of the best songwriters working today, a worthy heir to the aforementioned Prine, as well as Kris Kristofferson and the Willie. Branan got married not too long ago and also recently had a child, so this new record, more than some of the earlier ones, seems to be a little more optimistic as well.


SISYPHUS – Sisyphus (Asthmatic Kitty/Joyful Noise) WE SAID: It’s a dark—at times downright bleak—set, recalling the Bristol-spawned trip-hop of Massive Attack and Tricky and sifting through disorienting layers of minimalist, abstract beats surrounded by oddly compelling melodies. One moment the listener is assaulted by abrupt bursts of noise; the next, soothed by an almost gospel-like reverie; and the next, seduced by a disco-tilting foray into funk. And even if familiar elements do crop up over the course of this clear-vinyl double album—in particular, most of the vocals are rapped—Sisyphus is ultimately as off the wall a release as you’ll likely encounter this year.


RODNEY CROWELL — Tarpaper Sky (New West) WE SAID: Tarpaper Sky finds Crowell yet again emphasizing the superior songwriting skills that have been his stock in trade since the very beginning. After all, Crowell’s always been best when he’s mining homespun emotion, and here he injects that bare-bone sentiment into both ballads and rockabilly-style rave-ups with results that are awe-inspiring to say the least. He can clearly claim one of the finest albums of a sterling 40-year career.


SONNY KNIGHT & THE LAKERS – I’m Still Here (Secret Stash) WE SAID: It’s a retro-soul blowout of epic proportions that will no doubt please fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kinds, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields et al. Throughout, Knight & Co. deploy their traditional-tilting, seventies-inspired soul/funk with the agility of wizened veterans. Somebody alert the neighbors, ‘cos this house party’s gonna stretch long into the night and everyone needs to prepare for some major noise ordinance violations.


BLACK LIPS — Underneath the Rainbow (Vice) WE SAID: Even though they have polished their sound, they haven’t lost their edge. The chaos may be more controlled, but Black Lips can walk that line between unhinged and dexterous. They still have that dirty, carefree, uncompromising vibe, but on Underneath the Rainbow it’s able to be tamed, morphing into melodic garage rock that’s as catchy and easily digestible as it is rugged and in-your-face.


JOHN HIATT — Terms of My Surrender (New West) WE SAID: With Terms of My Surrender, he unashamedly opts for matters of the heart with a set of songs based entirely on the blues. On the surface, this no-frills approach may seem something of a step backward, but thanks to Hiatt’s marble-mouthed vocals and determinedly gritty demeanor, it’s all adapted well.


IAN MCLAGAN — United States (Yep Roc) WE SAID: Recorded with the ever-reliable Bump Band, it more or less affirms the MO he established early on – simple, concise and unassuming songs delivered with a reliable mix of tenacity and humility. He succeeds whether deadpanning a smooth croon on “Mean Old World” or crowing with conviction on “Love Letter.” All in all, United States demonstrates McLagan’s allegiance to a pure pop mantra.


TIMBER TIMBRE – Hot Dreams (Arts & Crafts) WE SAID: Timber Timbre is the dissolute house band at that end-of-the-trail, abandon-all-hope lounge, seducing and disorienting listeners by lulling them musically into chimerical comfort. The relaxed tempos and spacious arrangements of the Canadian band’s latest create deceptively calm backdrops, from haunting noir balladry to spaghetti western cinemascope. But once the listener buys in, singer Taylor Kirk enjoins them to reveal their darkest selves, to see motives and ethics for the fig leaves they are.


THE BLOODHOUNDS – Let Loose! (Alive Naturalsound) WE SAID: On the East L.A. quartet’s debut album they reaches back to the pre-psychedelic days of ‘50s R&B and ‘60s garage rock, sticking in the main to the classic two guitars/bass/drums formula stamped into eternity by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles a half century ago. It’s a pretty basic setup, but the ‘Hounds make it fresh, sounding like they’re having a blast jumpin’ in the night.


KEVIN MORBY – Still Life (Woodsist) WE SAID: Kevin Morby’s second solo record sounds more like a delayed second platter of last year’s superb Harlem River than a free-standing sophomore effort. The former album, the ex-Woods’ bassist farewell to his New York years, tapped into all manner of Gotham influences, from Greenwich Village folk to choogling VU, and those elements prevail in these 10 tracks, too. Morby may be in Los Angeles now, but the City of Angels isn’t quite in Morby…yet.


LA CERCA – Sunrise For Everyone (Fort Lowell) WE SAID: Singing in a warm, confident voice, Andrew Gardner imbues his tunes with a handshake-and-a-hug quality, inviting you to come into his world which, per the album title, is an inclusive one.   It’s as if every great indie pop band you might care to cite, from Big Star to Yo La Tengo to Galaxie 500 to all the great Flying Nun bands (Clean, Verlaines, etc.) of yore, had held a summit in order to formally pass the torch to this small band of Arizonans.


HOLY SONS – The Fact Facer (Thrill Jockey) WE SAID: Emil Amos writes, performs and self-records druggy dirges – sometimes with Middle Eastern flourishes, occasionally in a jazzy vein — over which his sleepy vocals deliver brutally honest self-analyses. His narratives may plumb the darker angels of human frailty, obsolescence, paranoia, addiction and self-loathing, but there’s an undercurrent of humor that lightens the mood just enough. The Fact Facer is a nuanced, multi-leveled listen that stands with the best things Amos – and anyone covering similarly adventurous terrain — has done.


PANOPTICON – Roads to the North (Nordvis/Bindrune) WE SAID: Plenty of black metal maniacs maintain actual honest-to-Baal artistic values, making music that’s not just for chronic thrashaholics with anger management issues. Chief among them is Panopticon whose previous platter Kentucky somehow managed to combine sweeping black metal with Appalachian folk music and pro-union sentiments to amazing effect. Roads takes the same mix and expands it even further, injecting more sweep into the melodies, more traditionalism into the folk atmospheres and a finely honed sense of craft.


PURLING HISS – Weirdon (Drag City) WE SAID: Purling Hiss, and front-man Mike Polizze, has propelled the evolution of his basic DIY solo roots, into a three-piece rock combo, and again into the frantic, manic and just downright catchy effort that is Weirdon. The end result being a bash of slamming guitars, along with engaging production work, igniting this power pop-punk slammer.


tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack (4AD) WE SAID: Astounding in its social aims, Nikki Nack pushes the already far-ranging musician out of her formerly messy comfort zone, honing her hooks and placing her beautifully confounding voice front and center, in all of its racially ambiguous glory.


SWANS – To Be Kind (Young God) WE SAID: A double CD set with several tracks clocking in at over 10 minutes – all the better to dive ever more deeply into Michael Gira’s psychospiritual brood of an imagination, where emotional states translate directly into musical sound and the doors of perception open to reveal whatever you choose to see. Dueling guitar riffs, rattling grooves and Mark E. Smith-like vocal dynamics; cacophony and scree; bluesy grumble, Tibetan moan, found sounds, feedback and Gira’s intense mutter and stentorian harangue. Quintessential Swans.


D’ANGELO AND THE VANGUARD – Black Messiah (RCA) WE SAID: Much has been made of the versatile arrangements—the fire-breathing funk of “1000 Deaths,” the proto-hop strut of “Sugah Daddy”—and the political firepower. But it’s the spellbinding vocal performances on his first album in 14 years that elevate Black Messiah, bridging its myriad ideas and frustrations with buttery, sensual charm.


BROKEN BELLS – After The Disco (Columbia) WE SAID: What we have here are dance songs for a post-faith, post-meaning world, one in which the old values, the old gods, and the old safety nets have all fallen away. Adrift in the ensuing chaos, we grasp at meaning and beauty where we can find it. And if we can’t find it, we create it. It’s the ideal album for both the end of the world and the end of the affair. The ability to transform such dour subject matter into such ebullient music might be considered a form or alchemy.


DOUG GILLARD – Parade On (Nine Mile) WE SAID: Parade On finds him turning down the distortion, in some cases, but still building up a set that blends hooks with layers of guitars. While Gillard’s heart remains devoted to steady, riff-based rock, the album is his most varied example of how it can be played. It still contains a substantial number of fast, punk-inspired riffs, but the songs with a cleaner attack get a boost from the layers of guitars.


RIVER OF SNAKES – Black Noise (Bad Fidelity) WE SAID: What is it about Australians and guitars? Put a six-string in the hands of a rock musician living Down Under and magic happens – dirty, grimy magic, most likely, but magic nonetheless. So it goes with Melbourne power trio River of Snakes. Guitarist Raül Sanchez loves his fuzzy fingerings, his thick riffs, screeching feedback excursions and general amp abuse proving him as much a disciple of Aussie guitar hero Rowland S. Howard as of J Mascis and Neil Young. Black Noise revels in gritty guitar glory, with Sanchez straddling the divide between psychedelic lyricism and filthy sewer grate noise.


THE DELINES – Colfax (El Cortez) WE SAID: In between penning novels and running the much-beloved Richmond Fontaine, songwriter Willy Vlautin started another project: the Delines, which revolves around his writing and the matter-of-fact intonation of former Damnations singer Amy Boone. The result of the collaboration is a gorgeous set of songs set in late-night bars after work, as denizens tell their stories with the appropriate tenor of resignation and hope, all the while mixing country and soul with neither muss nor fuss.


JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN III – The Love That You Own (Burger) WE SAID: The Love That You Own, his fifth release, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable outing, and being fronted by a habanero-hot band with a wicked pedal steel doesn’t hurt.  There’s quirky genius at work here – off-the-wall–rock, with a dollop of outlaw country, garage and psychedelia all scrambled in.


SLOAN – Commonwealth (Yep Roc) WE SAID: Their eleventh album finds the Canadian quartet giving a “side” to each of the four musicians. While their individual proclivities and qualities emerge, it’s clearly Sloan – the best pop band in the world (since Super Furry Animals, who contested the crown, are no more).


VASHTI BUNYAN – Heartleap (Fat Cat) WE SAID: It took her 35 years to record a sophomore album, after releasing the (eventually) influential sleeper Another Diamond Day; Lookaftering was a lovely song suite with gorgeous arrangements from composer Max Richter. Heartleap follows Lookaftering by a mere nine years. A self-produced affair, recorded privately and quietly for private, quiet listening.


NEW PORNOGRAPHERS – Brill Bruisers (Matador) WE SAID: Like Arcade Fire, Polyphonic Spree and Of Montreal, their sound is complex and even difficult to discern, although the overall vibe is one of effortless enthusiasm. Whether it takes the form of the exuberant opener “Brill Bruisers” or the boisterous delivery of “Marching Orders,” the new album clearly finds them exploiting a playful mood and eager to entertain.


ST. VINCENT – St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic) WE SAID: Top-notch guitarist Annie Clark has gone from a face in the crowd as a member of The Polyphonic Spree to a major artist in her own right. This self-titled is an achievement and a huge step forward toward becoming the heir apparent to DEVO’s art rock throne.


EX-HEX – Rips (Merge) WE SAID: From Helium’s density, to Wild Flag’s super-woman jam rock, to this – Mary Timony’s new band delivers a straight-up pop-punk album. Just when Timony’s vocals start to sound a little too Smith College she flashes signs of Patti Smith inspiration, and her Thunders-esque guitar and Janet Weiss’s drumming keep the music rocking.


THE EMPTY HEARTS – The Empty Hearts (429) WE SAID: The debut effort from The Empty Hearts — a supergroup featuring alumni of The Cars, The Romantics and Blondie — offers a fresh take on the garage rock and power pop that prompted its members to play music in the first place.


TEMPLES – Sun Structures (Fat Possum) WE SAID: Listen to the debut by this young band from Kettering, England and you’d swear it was recorded in 1967. These guys wear their influences on their paisley sleeves — and for the most part, it works.


DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – English Oceans (ATO) WE SAID: The Drive-By Truckers have always been a meat-and-potatoes kinda band: they do what they do well, and they’ve kept on doing it. There’s great virtue in that: they’ve created a complex and detailed world, and English Oceans adds more memorable characters to it. The southern soul elements of Go-Go Boots get set aside for the rock and roll that we’ve come to expect from them, although maybe toned down one notch from the rave-ups of their early days. The Truckers retrench here, and these songs and stories slip under your skin.


CHATHAM COUNTY LINE – Tightrope (Yep Roc) WE SAID: NC’s Chatham County Line is much more than your average banjo-playing, fiddle-fueled bluegrass combo. While Tightrope boasts plenty of picking and plucking – and not that they ever try to negate those elements – they infuse their music with a seemingly effortless accessibility capable of connecting them with a broader Americana audience.


EASTLINK—Eastlink (In the Red) WE SAID: Not necessarily equated with Australia’s Eastlink freeway, the five-man Eastlink is still a rock ‘n’ roll pileup of epic proportions. Indeed, Eastlink is not about moderation. Four guitarists flail and drone away, turning block simple riffs into shimmering monuments of volume and tone. You could read Eastlink as too much, too many guitars played by guys in too many bands, too many riffs repeated too many times, but that would just be cheating yourself. Sometimes too much transcends itself and becomes elementally simple, loud as it goes and exactly the right amount.


GHOST WOLVES – Man, Woman, Beast (Plowboy) WE SAID: Blues-inflected duos proliferate like nymphomaniacal rabbits in the ‘aughties, so it takes something special to stand out from the pack these days. Austin’s Ghost Wolves have got that something on their second record Man, Woman, Beast. Outside of a marvelously stripped-down sound featuring Jonathan Wolf on rhythm pound and Carley Wolf on bare-bones riffery and teasing, pouting vocal, the Wolves burst with sheer attitude, the kind of moxie that comes from being young, hungry and not giving a shit whether or not they see the inside of an arena.


MARY GAUTHIER – Trouble and Love (In The Black) WE SAID: The follow-up to 2010’s The Foundling, Trouble and Love is just as powerful, harrowing and, ultimately, life-affirming – a song cycle chronicling the end of a love affair and its aftermath. It proves beyond a doubt that Mary Gauthier is one of the best singer-songwriters working today.


EDWARD ROGERS – Kaye (Zip) WE SAID: Unabashedly inspired by the late English eccentric Kevin Ayers, British-born, New York-based auteur Edward Rogers’ fifth solo album (not including the pair he recorded as part of the chamber pop trio Bedsit Poets) is, in turn, his most experimental effort yet. Having established himself as a prime purveyor of Brit pop pageantry, Kaye find Edwards making some dramatic departures, all in homage to Ayers’ own spirit of adventure. Rogers remains an original, a man who puts his own definitive stamp on everything he does, even while knowingly paying tribute to a host of pop predecessors.


THE SPLIT SQUAD – Now Hear This… (Self-released) WE SAID: Michael Giblin (Parallax Project) is joined by the Fleshtones’ Keith Streng and the Plimsouls’ Eddie Munoz on guitars, Blondie’s Clem Burke on skins and the needs-no-intro-if-you-are-a-Red Sox-fan-Josh Kantor on keys. The ensemble don’t waste a sec on formalities during Now Hear This…, making the most of said manifesto. It takes everything you ever loved about late ‘70s power pop—air guitar-worthy riffing, relentless kit thumping, a memorable and insistent melody, singalong choruses, and that timeless feeling that you should just be jumping up and down in front of the band until the girl of your dreams comes up and joins you on the dance floor—and distills it all into the perfect set.


MICHAEL RANK AND STAG – Deadstock (Louds Hymn) WE SAID: Four albums in, singer/songwriter Rank (ex-Snatches of Pink) has no more bested the demons that taunt him that the rest of us can claim to have the answers to life itself. What he has done, though, is allowed the struggle to make him stronger, to finally summon the resolve that eluded him back around the time of 2012’s Kin and draw up an uneasy peace with those demons.


JOE LOUIS WALKER — Hornet’s Nest (Alligator) WE SAID: This is the real deal. When you think greatest bluesmen working today, Walker’s name does not come first to mind with the general public. And this is an injustice. Walker is one of the greatest bluesmen of this or any generation, a virtuoso of rock, blues, soul and gospel. On Hornet’s Nest you will see why. Walker can do it all, each song delivered in his soulful vocal style.


BRY WEBB – Free Will (Idée Fixe Records) WE SAID: On Free Will, Bry Webb, leader of Canada’s beloved Constantines, takes a modest step back from the immediacy of his previous Provider and looks back at his years as the raging young outcast, contrasting them with adult topics like responsibility, belief, love, work, and art. And the mostly down-tempo songs draw volatile energy from the balancing act between resignation and defiance.


LA SERA – Hour of the Dawn (Hardly Art) WE SAID: This is the sound of La Sera’s Katy Goodman (ex-Vivian Girls) bursting out, personally and musically. The result – frantic rock ‘n’ roll that finds its inspiration in punk, new wave and power-pop – should do the same for her band. Establishing a forceful new identity from the start, Goodman makes music with an infectious enthusiasm. And if this record is truly her dawn, Goodman and La Sera will be pushing the right rock ‘n’ roll buttons for long to come.


DEATH OF SAMANTHA – If Memory Serves Us Well (St. Valentine) WE SAID: You can’t keep a good band down, and twenty-plus years later DoS reconvened its original lineup and started playing shows again. They recorded a good chunk of its vintage repertoire live in the studio: shifting from groove to riff at will, DoS still grandly inhabits any permutation of six-string fire we might desire. Guitarist Doug Gillard, bassist David James and drummer Steve-O support John Petkovic’s cheeky lyrics with enough hooks to hang Paris Hilton’s entire wardrobe. The band knocks out anthem after anthem with ridiculous ease.


BILLY SEDLMAYR – Charmed Life (Fell City) WE SAID: Produced by Gabriel Sullivan (of Giant Sand and Taraf de Tucson) it’s a record of simultaneous intimacy and expansiveness, and as befits its desert origins, of moonlit luminosity and sun-baked glare. Tucson’s Sedlmayr, backed by Sullivan and a host of Tucson talent that includes members of GS and TdT as well as erstwhile Bob Dylan drummer Winston Watson and multiinstrumentalist Andrew Collberg, serves up a dozen dusty travelogues.


DOUG PAISLEY – Strong Feelings (No Quarter) WE SAID: With fuller arrangements than Paisley has relied on previously, the new offerings are buoyant, beautiful and often a little boisterous. Emmett Kelly’s guitar lines are kinetic and poignant, while Band alumnus Garth Hudson contributes organ fills that flicker with cozy warmth. But beneath this understated grandeur are narratives that feel more like snippets of an inner monologue than fodder for a confident country frontman. These are personal ruminations on lost loves and fallen idols, imminent mortality and an uncertain future.


THE ALLAH LAS — Worship the Sun (Innovative Leisure) WE SAID: The Allah Las weren’t even born when their late-1960s sound was first devised. No, they learned the Nuggets style by listening to records, apparently. You can imagine them one-upping each other at the turntable with dog-eared, day-glo colored albums that splice minor chord melancholy with jangly euphoria, tambourine slapping hedonism with moody surf licks. And then in the practice space trying those tricks with their own instruments, infusing the echo and fuzz of Nixon-era rebellion with fresher, sunnier tones.


MASKED INTRUDER – M.I. (Fat Wreck Chords) WE SAID: If The Ramones and The Beach Boys were locked up in a high security prison with nothing to do but harmonize, write love songs and plan their escape, they would sound exactly like Masked Intruder. The pop-punk ex-cons from Madison, WI, each sporting a different color ski mask ‘cos, well, figure it out yourself (I ain’t no snitch!), have just turned in M.I., their second full length; a brilliant collection of odes to unrequited love and crime sprees.


CARLA BOZULICH – Boy (Constellation) WE SAID: Like Tom Waits, Bozulich favors a sound that reimagines Howlin’ Wolf as performance art – she plays guitars and works the synth and most samples and loops while John Eichenseer adds keyboards, viola, percussion and other droning electronics. But unlike Waits of late, she works hard to not let the songs become just moody soundscapes. And her lyrics crackle with the eerie allure of a distant Mississippi Delta radio broadcast on a lonely night, but are sophisticated enough to be on the wall in the Museum of Modern Art.


SID GRIFFIN –The Trick Is To Breathe (Prima) WE SAID: Sid Griffin has been plying his craft for the better part of 30 years, helming such bands as the Long Ryders and the Coal Porters. Griffin’s latest individual outing — and only his third solo studio album overall — finds him offering a reverent nod to past precedents, with ample samplings of bluegrass, country rock and subdued ballads flush full of meditative desire.


DANIEL LANOIS – Flesh and Machine (Anti-) WE SAID: Easily the most ambitious effort of his career. It finds him veering into sonic terrain eerily reminiscent of the dreamy atonal soundscapes once conceived by avant-garde composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley. And although it lacks material that could be deemed of the hummable variety, these instrumentals are draped with hushed halo-like effects, a mix of random rhythmic pulses, droning tones and a brief shimmering sparkle.


THE BASEBALL PROJECT – 3rd (Yep Roc) WE SAID: What initially may have been taken as schtick—cutting an album composed solely of baseball-themed tunes—into a witty, cerebral and thoroughly rocking homage to our National Pastime. 3rd, the smartly titled third BBP album, picks up where its predecessors left off, singing the praises of heroes, wannabes, almosts and also-rans with equal enthusiasm, additionally dipping its resin-stained fingers into baseball’s sprawling culture.


TOMMY CASTRO – The Devil You Know (Alligator) WE SAID: A brilliant, hard rocking blues album. Besides being a road warrior for decades, when people think of Tommy Castro they think of his soul tinged vocals and soaring guitar licks anchored by a red hot horn section. But then in 2012, he introduced live “The Painkillers,” a lean, mean four person band. The result on CD is The Devil You Know which marks a stripped down return to the basics for Castro.


….what the hell, let’s keep going and look at some of the best archival/reissue titles from 2014….



GUN CLUB – Fire of Love (Superior Viaduct) WE SAID: – Its punk-soaked blues and roots rock & roll sound as iconoclastic now as it did in 1981. The blues is a form given to intensely personal interpretation, from Son House and Charley Patton to Chris Whitley and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The punk-informed approach the Gun Club employed maintains its power and distinction over three decades on.


THE KINKS – Muswell Hillbillies (Legacy Edition) (Sony Legacy) WE SAID: Arguably the band’s last great concept creation, Muswell Hillbillies found the Kinks opting for Americana well before the term was invented. It’s enough to hear this album newly remastered after more than 40 years, and most of the bonus tracks are essential as well. The archival concert video footage occupying the accompanying DVD which makes this version a near necessity: a pair of 1972 appearances on the BBC.


LOVE – Black Beauty (High Moon) WE SAID: This ain’t Forever Changes part whatever. That said, it’s not quite in the same space as the hard-edged blues rock Lee had explored with the post-Changes versions of Love, either. Lee’s new musicians were as comfortable with then-contemporary R&B as rock, and there’s definitely a tighter groove and a looseness to the arrangements that usually comes from folks who’ve gotten funky a time or two.


UNCLE TUPELO – No Depression (Sony/Legacy) Chances are, when future tastemakers set out to uncover the exact juncture at which Americana merged with insurgency, they’ll find their ‘ah-ha’ moment by tapping into Uncle Tupelo’s seminal effort, No Depression. The addition of an entire second disc full of demos suggests that the antagonistic attitude emerged fully formed.


THE BEATLES — The Beatles In Mono (Apple/Universal) WE SAID: Last year’s vinyl reissues of these albums in stereo simply used the digital masters that were created for the 2009 CDs. But for these mono albums, the producers went back to the original analogue tapes, and were cut sans the use of any digital technology. And the quality of this vinyl box set is such that you may find yourself thinking — what’s so great about stereo, anyway?


LED ZEPPELIN – Led Zeppelin + Led Zeppelin II + Led Zeppelin III Deluxe Editions (Swan Song/Rhino) WE SAID: Like a coven of long, lost friends who show up at your door with beer, blues and barbiturates in tow, Led Zeppelin’s first three albums, originally released in ’69 and ’70, have returned to remind us of the fun we used to have together in the form of these long-awaited deluxe editions. It really is a long overdue treat to see these first three Zep LPs get the individual reissue treatments they so richly deserve.


VARIOUS ARTISTS – Native North America Vol. One (Light In The Attic) WE SAID: It aims to acknowledge some of the artists who have surfaced over the years, in varying degrees of prominence, and to offer a resource/starting point for fans who want to delve deeper. Once again the ever-diligent archivists at Light In The Attic have enlisted the crate-digging talents of deejay/journalist Kevin “Sipreano” Howes (Jamaica To Toronto and Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-73) to compile an overview collection that tells a compelling musical story.


ELECTRIC EELS – Die Electric Eels LP (Superior Viaduct) WE SAID: When music nerd discussions turn to proto-punk, the electric eels’ brief mid-70s existence often gets overlooked. The quintet didn’t just hail from the same fertile Cleveland scene as fellow travelers Rocket From the Tombs and the Mirrors and future luminaries the Dead Boys, the Styrenes and Pere Ubu – it’s probably responsible for starting it. Die Electric Eels compiles all the material from its original ‘74-’75 incarnation, starting with the jittery “Agitated” and its atomic B-side “Cyclotron” and continuing through another eleven slices of Midwestern clatter and spit.


THE DREAM SYNDICATE – The Day Before Wine and Roses (Live at KPFK, September 5, 1982) (Omnivore) WE SAID: Originally released 20 years ago on a German label, The Day Before Wine and Roses represents baby pictures of the much-beloved Dream Syndicate captured during a radio broadcast a few weeks before the band would go into the studio to record its debut. It may not get the same spins as more accomplished Dream Syndicate records, but it’s still an essential document of a great band at the beginning of its journey.


JUANECO Y SU COMBO – The Birth of Jungle Cumbia (The Vital Record) WE SAID: For anyone looking for one of the original touchstones of Peruvian psychedelic cumbia (or chicha), here is a motherlode: eighteen tracks recorded in the early 1970s by the legendary Juaneco y su Combo, from the upcountry Amazon Basin city of Pucallpa. Beautifully packaged with extensive liner note and striking graphics, The Birth of Jungle Cumbia is a class project all the way, and absolutely essential.


CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – Sun Zoom Spark 1970 to 1972 (Rhino) WE SAID: Of course it started with Beefheart’s landmark Trout Mask Replica. Then you discovered The Spotlight Kid, Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Clear Spot. But that’s part of the fun, pickin’ a point of entry and bargin’ in, you know, booglarizin’ the stuff online until such time as you can procure your own (probably second-hand) copy. Sun Zoom Spark collects remastered editions of these three albums plus a fourth bonus disc of outtakes and unreleased tracks from the same period and sessions. If you decide now is the time to get some Beefheart in your life, embrace the weirdness. There are dividends if you do.

BOMBADIL – Tarpits and Canyonlands (Vinyl Re-Release; Ramseur Records) WE SAID: This beautifully simple 2009 record by the Durham, NC-based Bombadil should have been the album to bring this trio indie rock fame and fortune. Its 15 tracks of striking piano-based twee pop. Not a bad song in the collection. The vinyl itself is 180 gram (a cool pink color for the collectors) with 45 rpm speed for the best sound quality. The packaging is a tri-fold jacket that includes 14 color prints.

CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN – Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart + Key Lime Pie (Omnivore Recordings) WE SAID: Both reissues are padded with multiple rarities and live cuts, including songs by the Damned, the Stranglers, and the Buzzcocks which clearly show Camper had roots in the emerging punk/New Wave scene before they were old enough to make their own kind of music. The remastering is terrific, opening up the music and letting it breath in ways the original CDs didn’t quite allow.


MARSHMALLOW OVERCOAT – The Very Best Of LP (Garage Nation Records) WE SAID: Fans get one final encore via this beautiful double album, a gatefold sleeved affair pressed on cloudburst orange and blue vinyl. Less an epitaph than a fitting celebration of what turned out to be a pretty fine run (how many groups to you know lasted a quarter century and still managed to sound vital at the end of that tenure?), The Very Best Of makes a solid case for this group being one of America’s—hell, the planet’s!—best-ever second-generation garage/psych combos.


THE POSIES – Failure (Omnivore Recordings) WE SAID: With the LP version of the Failure reissue pressed on eye-candy greenish-gold vinyl and the CD edition boasting 8 bonus tracks comprising demos, instrumentals and live material, the Posies and the astute archivists at Omnivore have done fans a huge service. Make that a gift, in fact. A “failure”? Ironic title or not, to paraphrase a great philosopher, from small things, big things one day will come. Herein find some of those small thing—pop nuggets that turned out to be a musical goldmine.


RAN BLAKE – Plays Solo Piano (ESP-disk) WE SAID: From the first notes of “Vanguard” on ESP-disk’s reissue of 1965’s Plays Solo Piano, it’s clear that Ran Blake represented a new kind of pianism – equal parts impressionism (Satie, Debussy) Avant jazz (Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley) and (Thelonious) Monk-isms. For a debut album Plays Solo Piano was a courageous statement. Clearly in the jazz tradition, and very much a personal, stylistic explosion of the idiom, Blake belonged on ESP Records.


CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG – CSNY 1974 (Rhino) WE SAID: A stunning box set boasting three CDs and one DVD (a single CD distillation is also available as well; both are from Rhino). Included are 40 songs and eight videos culled from the quartet’s highly touted 1974 tour, a point in their combined careers that found them in their prime. And the massive 185 page booklet that accompanies this extravaganza is practically worth the price of admission on its own, chock full of concise commentary, detailed liner notes and stunning photos.


THE POP GROUP – Cabinet of Curiosities + We Are Time (Freaks R Us) WE SAID: The Pop Group could only have existed in the late 70s. An almost textbook example of that nebulous genre known as postpunk, the Bristol quintet deftly combined nervous funk with clanging punk rock and performed it with a loose sensibility that has as much in common with free jazz as rock & roll. It never found chart success in its original 1978-1981 lifespan. But as a favorite of maverick musicians like Nick Cave and Mike Watt, the Pop Group’s influence lives on.


FLESH EATERS – A Minute to Pray A Second to Die (Superior Viaduct) WE SAID: When the roots rockers met the punks in early 80s Los Angeles, they probably had no idea that one of the ultimate expressions of the collision would be 1981’s A Minute to Pray A Second to Die, he second LP from singer/lyricist Chris D(esjardin)s’ loose collective the Flesh Eaters. His noir nightmares and his esteemed collaborators’ feral roar keeps it as bracing now as it was then.


SUPERDRAG – Jokers W/Tracers (SideOneDummy) WE SAID: A collection of demos from the Head Trip in Every Key sessions. The Knoxville power pop band spreads out 23 songs over two LPs, and of the 13 songs off of their sophomore record, only four aren’t included on this collection


MIKE COOPER – Trout Steel + Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. (Paradise of Bachelors) WE SAID: His fearlessness in moving away from the standard trappings of folk and blues by embracing the direction of such avant-jazz greats as Pharaoh Sanders and Sonny Sharrock as well as early electronic sound architects as Steve Reich and Terry Riley have also made his long out-of-print early ‘70s albums very much in demand amongst a niche market of young sonic adventurers.


PUGWASH – A Rose in the Garden of Weeds: A Preamble Through the History of Pugwash… (Omnivore) For the uninitiated, Ireland’s Pugwash is the second coming of ELO, Jellyfish and XTC (they were even wisely snatched up by Andy Partridge for his own label), combing smart lyrics with earworm Pop melodies that stick with you for days. This is a CD crammed with 17 songs culled from Pugwash’s catalogue from 1999 – 2011.

SMALL FACES – There Are But Four Small Faces (Deluxe Edition) (Charly) WE SAID: One of the best British albums of the mid-‘60s era. The most eloquent example of the Steve Marriott/Ronnie Lane songwriting axis, it was the album that best represented the band’s multiple strengths overall. Whether in the stereo, mono and alternate mixes included here, they represent the best the band had to offer.


NATIONAL WAKE – Walk In Africa 1979-81 (Light In The Attic) WE SAID: National Wake formed in the aftermath of the Soweto Uprising of 1976, South African students additionally inspired by the international punk movement, and a bi-racial combo to boot, which in the apartheid era wasn’t exactly given the blessings of the government. They penned meaty anthems such as the Clash-like “International News,” the reggae-drenched title track, blazing garage-rocker “Mercenaries” and the lilting Caribbean pop of “Corner House Stone,” all politically charged and purposeful. Light In The Attic has compiled all the key recordings here, several of them previously unreleased, as a double LP (180-gram vinyl) in a tip-on deluxe gatefold sleeve, plus a handsome, photo-packed 20-page booklet.


VELVET UNDERGROUND – Velvet Underground (Sundazed) WE SAID: that Velvet Underground was originally issued in 1970 as part of the MGM label’s “Golden Archive Series” of compilations of several of its key artists. It boasts an intriguing tracklist that sequences the beautifully poppy “Candy Says” next to the serene, dreamy “Sunday Morning”; the starkly droning “Heroin” beside archetypal VU choogler “Beginning to See the Light”; and the violently throbbing “White Light White Heat” just before the luminous, ethereal “Jesus.” As liner notesman David Fricke astutely observes, it “now plays like a set of greatest hits by a band that made them ahead of schedule, before the rest of the world was ready.”


JAMES BROWN – Love*Power*Peace (Sundazed) WE SAID: Good-GAWD! When liner notes refer to “electrifying a crazed Parisian audience” you might be inclined to roll your eyes and sigh, “journalistic hype…”—and then you hear this concert from March 8, 1971 and find yourself electrified yourself. This 3-LP set is the sound of artist, band and crowd being hotwired together. Watch the sparks fly. Portions of it were previously released in remixed form on a ’92 CD, but this is the first time it’s seen a complete, official airing.


VARIOUS ARTISTS – Country Funk II 1967-1974 (Light In The Attic) WE SAID: Boasting such heavy hitters as Willie Nelson, Jackie DeShannon, Dolly Parton, JJ Cale and Kenny Rogers, Light In The Attic’s second Country Funk volume isn’t as compelling as the flawless first volume (released in 2012), but it’s only slightly less so. Swampy, sexy, boozy, twangy and, yes, undeniably funky stuff. Packaged, as previously, in a handsome tip-on gatefold sleeve, Light In The Attic has succeeded once again. To quote a famous politician, “Mission accomplished.”


BIG STAR – Live in Memphis (Omnivore) WE SAID: Issued to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oct. 29, 1994, concert, Live in Memphis—which has a corresponding DVD available separately—finds Alex Chilton, particularly, in good voice, his obvious playfulness all the more engaging given that he’s performing before a hometown crowd, the first such Memphis appearance since the reunion. It makes for a fitting tribute not just to Chilton and the latter-day incarnation of Big Star, but to all the members.


VARIOUS ARTISTS — Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych from Peru’s Radical Decade (Tigers Milk) WE SAID: A double-vinyl, 16-track compilation that documents an extraordinary period during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when despite harsh political repression, a genre-omnivorous blend of rock, jazz, funk and traditional Peruvian music blew up in Lima.


ROWLAND S. HOWARD – Six Strings That Drew Blood (Liberation) WE SAID: Though never a household name, the Australian rock pioneer’s dark romantic songwriting and distinctive twangnoise guitar hugely influenced the downunderground and, by proxy, the world of alternative rock & roll. The two-disk Six Strings That Drew Blood pays tribute to the power his work still commands, drawing tracks from nearly every project in which he had a hand – the Birthday Party, Crime & the City Solution, These Immortal Souls and of course his solo albums. It’s an excellent summary of one of non-mainstream rock’s most underrated and singular artists.

FAREWELL: Music World Passings 2014

FAREWELL - Music World Passings 2014

We pay our final respects to Pete Seeger, Bobby Womack, Ian McLagan and many, many more that we lost in 2014.


I quote myself from years’ previous: Having performed this annual ritual for years now, I’ve learned to take a quiet comfort in pulling together notes and combing the internet to learn names, dates, causes of death – and the artistic achievements that prompt us to memorialize the people in the first place. So as you scan down the list of those who did leave us this year, pause when you reach an artist who was particularly special to you, and meditate momentarily on why he or she was special. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it does dovetail into virtually every musical genre and discipline (it additionally includes a handful of non-musicians), and it touches equally upon the obscure and the well-known. For the sake of clarity, particularly if it’s a more obscure artist, in some instance we’ve added the affiliation/group or genre.

And after you pay your own last respects, pledge to seek out those artists who are still with us and who are important to you, and let them know in some way how much you appreciate them.


Read also:

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2013

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2012

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2011

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2010

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2009

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2008


Phil Everly

January, 2014

Rockin’ Tabby Thomas (blues musician) 1/1

Jay Traynor (Jay & the Americans) 1/2

Sam Ulano 1/2

Phil Everly 1/3

Saul Zaentz 1/3

Joseph McDonald (Woody Herman Orchestra) 1/3

Herbert Van Note (After The Reign) 1/5

Reather Dixon Turner (The Bobbettes) 1/7

Chris Peigler (My So Called Band, Rogue Nations) 1/8

Gerald Smith (Dawnwatcher) 1/8

Eddie Boggs 1/9

Roy Campbell (jazz musician) 1/9

Amiri Baraka aka LeRoi Jones 1/9

Gary Grimshaw (rock/psych concert poster artist) 1/13

Freddie “Fingers” Lee 1/13

Beloyd Taylor 1/13

Dianne Christian 1/14

Bud Spangler (jazz musician) 1/16

Joe Evans (jazz musician) 1/17

Dennis “Fergie” Frederiksen (Toto/Trillion/Le Roux) 1/18

Al Lerner 1/19

Jud Kingsley 1/19

Arthur Doyle 1/25

Rusty York 1/26

Pete Seeger 1/27

John Cacavas (composer) 1/28

Stevie Woods 1/28

Johnny Allen 1/29

Mike Mirro (Umphrey’s McGee) 1/30

Anna Gordy Gaye 1/31

Bob Casale


Bunny Rugs (Third World) 2/2

Philip Seymour Hoffman 2/2

Gloria Leonard 2/3

Shirley Temple Black 2/10

Wayne Gardner (Magellan) 2/10

King Kester Emeneya 2/13

Bob Casale (DEVO) 2/17

Wayne Smith 2/17

Bernd Noske (Birth Control) 2/18

Duffy Power 2/19

Maria von Trapp 2/18

Tommy Osh 2/20

Chip Damiani (Remains) 2/23

Kelly Holland (Cry Of Love) 2/24

Harold Ramis 2/24

Franny Beecher (Bill Haley & His Comets) 2/24

Paco de Lucia 2/25

Prince Philip 2/25

Tim Wilson 2/26

Frank Reed (Chi-Lites) 2/26

Louie Lehman 2/28




Dave Sampson 3/5

Selim Lemouchi (the Devil’s Blood) 3/5

Speaker Knockerz aka Derek McAllister 3/6

Charles Love (Bloodstone) 3/7

Buren Fowler (Drivin’ n’ Cryin’) 3/8

Jerry Corbitt (Youngbloods) 3/9

Michael Jagosz (L.A. Guns) 3/9

George Donaldson (Celtic Thunder) 3/12

Gary Burger (The Monks) 3/14

Scott Asheton 3/15

Joe Lala 3/18

Rob Rose (Romantix) 3/19

Oderus Urungus aka Dave Brockie 3/23

Joe Frazier (Chad Mitchell Trio) 3/28

Dave Gregg (D.O.A.) 3/31

Frankie Knuckles 3/31




Arthur Smith 4/3

Wayne Henderson (Jazz Crusaders) 4/4

Jason McCash (Gates of Slumber) 4/6

Mickey Rooney 4/6

Lee Black Childers 4/6

Pete Buckmaster (By Starlight) 4/6

George Shuffler (Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys) 4/7

Jesse Winchester 4/11

Nandu Bhende (Velvet Fogg) 4/11

Dave Innes (4/11)

Fred Ho 4/12

Armando Peraza 4/14

Shane Gibson (Korn) 4/15

James Knowles 4/17

Mike Atta (The Middle Class) 4/20

Lee Dresser (The Krazy Kats) 4/24

DJ Rashad 4/26

DJ E-Z Rock 4/27

Mike Gallipoli (Denied Existence) 4/27

Dennis Kamakahi 4/28

Paul Goddard (Atlanta Rhythm Section) 4/29

Joe Young (AntiSeen) 4/30

Larry Ramos (Association) 4/30




Jessica Cleaves (Friends of Distinctiion) 5/2

Bobby Gregg 5/3

Ed Gagliardi (Foreigner) 5/11

Nash The Slash aka Jeff Plewman 5/12

Donnie Evil aka Chris Donahue 5/13

Ernie Chataway (Judas Priest) 5/13

Jerry Vale 5/18

Randy Coven 5/20

Martin Lister (Alphaville) 5/21

Sergio de Bustamante (Los Spyders) 5/22

Tommy Blom (Tages) 5/25

Coleman Lewis 5/30


Jimmy Scott


Victor Agnello (Laaz Rocket) 6/1

Steve Becker (Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes) 6/1

Weldon Myrick (steel guitarist) 6/2

Brian Alguire (Crazy Ivans) 6/4

Doc Neeson 6/4

Alan Douglas 6/7

Jimmy Scott 6/12

Jim Keays (Masters Apprentice) 6/13

Casey Kasem 6/15

Horace Silver 6/18

Johnny Mann 6/18

Gerry Goffin 6/19

Bobby Womack 6/27




Nick Charles (blues bassist) 7/1

Kathy Stobart (jazz saxist) 7/5

Lois Johnson 7/7

Frankie Dunop (jazz drummer) 7/7

John Spinks (The Outfied) 7/9

Skip Meyer (Shoes) 7/9

Chris Grier (To Live and Shave in L.A.) 7/10

Tommy Ramone aka Tommy Erdelyi 7/11

Charlie Haden 7/11

Johnny Winter 7/16

Idris Muhammed 7/29

Giorgio Gas

Dick Wagner 7/30


Charles M. Young


Rod de’Ath 8/1

Robin Williams 8/11

Tony Cahill (Easybeats, Purple Hearts, Python Lee Jackson) 8/13

Rick Parashar 8/14

Charles M. Young 8/18 (pictured above)

Jean Redpath 8/21

Tommy Gough (The Crests) 8/24

Uziah Thompson (reggae singer) 8/25

Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull, Wild Turkey) 8/28

Stuart Gordon (Korgis) 8/28

Jimi Jamison (Survivor) 8/31


Peter Gutteridge


Nicky da B aka Nickesse Toney (bounce musician) 9/2

Gustavo Cerati (Soda Stereo) 9/4

Hopeton Lewis (reggae singer) 9/4

Simone Battle (G.R.L.) 9/5

Gerald Wilson (jazz trumpeter) 9/8

Robert “Throb” Young (Primal Scream 9/9

Cosimo Matassa 9/11

Bob Crewe 9/11

Joe Sample 9/12

Tom Skeeter (owner of Sound City Studios) 9/12

Peter Gutteridge (Clean, Chills, Snapper, Alpaca Brothers, Great Unwashed, Puddle) 9/14

George Hamilton IV 9/17

U. Srinivas 9/19

Mark Loomis (Chocolate Watchband) 9/26

Jack Bruce


 Lynsey de Paul 10/1

Paul Revere 10/4

Leonard Delaney (Tornadoes) 10/5

Style Scott 10/9

Mark Bell (LFO) 10/13

Isaiah “Ikey” Owens (Jack White band, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Mars Volta) 10/14

Tim Hauser (Manhattan Transfer, Criterions) 10/14

Clive Jones (Black Widow) 10/16

Joanne Borgella 10/18

Winston Holt (reggae singer) 10/19

James Levesque (Agent Orange) 10/19

Raphael Ravenscroft (sax session man) 10/19

Tyson Stevens (Scary Kids Scaring Kids) 10/22

Alvin Stardust 10/23

Jeanne Black (country singer) 10/23

Jack Bruce 10/25


Rick Rosas


Wayne Static (Static X) 11/1

Acker Bilk 11/2

Michael Coleman (blues guitarist) 11/2

Gary McMillan (Standells) 11/5

Rick Rosas aka “Rick the Bass Player” (Neil Young, Pegi Young) 11/6

Hugo Duarte 11/7

Big Bank Hank (Sugarhill Gang) 11/11

Buddy Catlett (jazz bassist) 11/12

Johnny Toobad aka Johnny Elichaoff 11/13

Brian Griffith 11/14

Jimmy Ruffin 11/17

Clive Palmer (Incredible String Band) 11/23




Bobby Keys 12/2

Ian McLagan 12/3

Nick Talbot (Gravenhurst) 12/4

Bob Montgomery (Buddy Holly) 12/4

Brian Goble (Subhumans) 12/7

Winfred “Blue” Lovett (Manhattans) 12/10

Raoul Cita (Harptones) 12/13

John Hampton (Ardent Studios) 12/13

John Fry (Ardent Studios/Records) 12/18

Joe Cocker 12/22

Buddy DeFranco (jazz clarinetist) 12/24

Alberta Adams (blues singer) 12/25


January 2015

Jeff Golub 1/1/15

Donna Douglas (Beverly Hillbillies) 1/2/15

2013 IN REVIEW: The Blurt Top 75 Albums

Nic Cave by John Boydston

But, in a relatively lackluster year, were there actually that many GREAT albums released?


 It was the best of years, it was the worst of years, it was…. somewhere in between, actually. Last year in this space we were so giddy with post-release fever that we couldn’t stop at just a Top 10, or a Top 25, or even a Top 50—we went to 75. 2011 was very nearly as great, too, so crammed with memorable new releases and stellar archival titles that it seemed to be nothing less than a music geek’s paradise.

 2013, while not quite the polar opposite of the preceding two years, was a letdown, however. Lots of good, very interesting, kinda cool albums, but only a handful that seemed destined to be adjudged “classic” in, say, a couple of decades, and it ultimately was tough to even come up with 75 of ‘em again. Our list therefore might be most accurately described as a Top 20 with 55 honorable mentions; put more positively, though, think of it simply as 75 recommendations to you, the ever-hungry music fans. If this roster of releases prompts you to seek out a title or two that you didn’t hear first go-round this year, then we call that a win-win.

 Our Artist Of The Year, Jason Isbell, certainly delivered the goods with his masterful Southeastern, which more than hinted at a future ranking alongside such greats as Earle, Petty and even Springsteen. (Go here to read our recent interview with Isbell, who also appears on the cover of the most recent issue, #14, of BLURT.) And some of the albums dotting the rest of our Top 10 and Top 20 just may have the right kind of staying power, too. Only time will tell. But overall, it seems like this year was, for musicians, a time for retrenchment, regrouping and rethinking of one’s own artistry and career strategy.

 Still, even though it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, we still like it, and in truth, we’ve become accustomed to the peaks and valleys that the music biz presents in the larger picture; it’s just that 2012 and 2011 spoiled us. So as we noted last year in this space: please feel free to slap that person standing next to you who is griping about not hearing anything good this year. Then ask us sometime about trying to pare down a list of some 200-odd worthy new releases (and that 200 was trimmed from the more than 3,000 CDs and LPs received at the office – we don’t count digital files), to something manageable and coherent as represented by the 75-strong list below.

Also as noted last year: we’ve tried to factor in the fave raves of our many contributing writers (go here to view their individual lists, aka the 2013 Revenge Of The Writers), the peculiar biases of the Editor—trust us, they are indeed peculiar—plus sundry less-quantifiable measures that our highly skilled team of office interns employed in order to arrive at that golden Top 60, like which artists had the cutest boyfriends or girlfriends, or which labels put them on the guest list when their artists came to town. But in the end, we don’t take it all that seriously. List-making is supposed to be fun, not an obligation. Bottom line: no excess navel gazing here; no what everything means, maaan… from your friendly neighborhood BLURT. Here’s our list – let’s do this.

Also check out our 2012 coverage:

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012

Jason Isbell live 1 by Erika Goldring

1. ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Jason IsbellSoutheastern (Southeastern, released 6/11)WE SAID: “If you have a pulse, it’ll bring you to your knees. Considering how 2011’s Here We Rest compared to Springsteen circa Darkness On the Edge Of Town, the new Southeastern is Isbell’s The River. Like Springsteen, he’s now turned the lens decisively inward in order to move beyond merely whiffing life’s elusive truths and gain a primal understanding of the ties that bind.” (Photo by Erika Goldring)

2. Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsPush the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd., 2/19)

WE SAID: “This ain’t yer mama’s Bad Seeds. Push The Sky Away plays like an extended, brooding, stream-of-consciousness meditation upon sex, sin, salvation and – most important – transcendence. There’s an uncommon restraint here which, coupled with a newfound gift for rich, lustrous melodicism, offers the listener a lingering, afterglow-like catharsis rather than a series of blinding, ejaculatory shocks.” (Photo, top of page, by John Boydston for BLURT.)

Besnard Lakes by Susan Moll 2

3. Besnard LakesUntil in Excess, Imperceptible UFO (Jagjaguwar, 4/2)

WE SAID: “Unlike many so-called shoegaze acts, Besnard Lakes really understand quick and catchy, even if they’re somewhat tricky in their sparing use of hooking the listener sooner than later. The vocalists lead you along a gauzy, melodic breeze for a couple of minutes before dramatically introducing soaring guitars that would feel at home on a Mogwai album, providing a climactic and rewarding pay-off.” (Photo by Susan Moll for BLURT)

Neko Case

4. Neko CaseThe Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-, 9/3)

WE SAID: “You may be lulled by the dreamy, cosmic Americana, energized by the perky, anthemic power pop, or seduced by the thrumming, electro-tinged rockabilly, all bringing Case’s trademark brand of stream-of-consciousness confessional lyrics. But with each successive spin you’ll also find your skin turning tingly and heart rendered all a-flutter by those luscious Case pipes. She makes the hurt feel good.”

Those Darlins hi res color 2

5. Those DarlinsBlur The Line (Oh Wow Dang, 9/30)

WE SAID: “5 out of 5 stars. The transformation is complete. In the final estimation, Those Darlins are neither the quaint Americana mistresses nor the latterday garage queens we might’ve pegged ‘em as. Somewhere along the line, this became an amazing band, and songwriting/arranging this masterful elevates Blur The Line to modern-classic status.”

Daft Punk

6. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories (Columbia, 5/21)

WE SAID: “A dazzling album, steeped in soul and brimming with an uncommon musicality, all rhythmic urgency and compelling melodies and anthemic choruses. Traditional disco tropes abound, from vocoder-drenched vocals to handclaps-as-percussion to sleeky-silky fretboard flourishes. It’s also the gayest album you’ll hear all year. But there’s no winking irony at play. It’s emotionally profound, with a subtle elegance, and sonically serendipitous.”

Savages by Michael Passman

7. Savages Silence Yourself (Matador/Pop Noire, 5/7)

WE SAID: “Savages, an all female act from the UK, plays it loud and with perfectly channeled ‘80s goth postpunk angst… the buzz has been steadily building all year for the band, and Silence Yourself, with its furious whirl of Slits-meet-Sonic Youth, fully delivers.” (Photo by Michael Passman for BLURT)

Charles Bradley by Susan Moll

8. Charles BradleyVictim Of Love (Dunham/Daptone, 4/2)

WE SAID: “On his second album, Bradley branches out with his sound, wrapping his raspy, growly, velvet-rubbed-the-wrong-way voice around classic Stax horn ballads, Barry White-esque hormonal croons, and Farfisa-infused, slapped-and-popped funk a la James Brown. The whole thing, in fact, is like God talking to you over a James Brown vamp, and you don’t know whether to drop down on your knees or dance. Hard to do both, but maybe now’s the time to try.” (Photo of Charles Bradley by Susan Moll for BLURT)

National by Merrick Marquie

9. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me (4AD, 5/27)

WE SAID: “Sad, sardonic, mid-tempo, self-reflective, Trouble In Mind is another soundtrack for all of our laughably medium-sized American problems. I used to bristle when people called the National “dad rock,” but how else can you tag guitar-driven music about minor male mid-life crises? Maybe we should stop seeing it as a negative. Done this well, even dad rock has its charms.” (Photo of The National by Merrick Marquie for BLURT)


10. Superchunk I Hate Music (Merge, 8/20)

WE SAID: “Although the scorching guitars and sonic extremes have been scaled back from the absolute manic frenzy that characterized their initial output, they still maintain their reckless abandon. They direct their efforts with a determined forward thrust that spills over the melodic parameters with a celebratory display of rock ‘n’ roll revelry.” (Photo of Mac from Superchunk by Greg Jacobs for BLURT)


11. Cut CopyFree Your Mind (Loma Vista, 11/5)

WE SAID: “The feel-good album of the year, and not just for the EDM scene. Cue this up in virtually any context—dance club, coffee shop, record store, street fair, whatever—and watch the smiles unfurl and the asses start twitching.”

12. Primal ScreamMore Light (Ignition, 6/18)

WE SAID: “The logical heir to 1991’s epochal Screamadelica. Here, striking stylistic shifts never overwhelm the overriding ambiance, which is to revel in sensuality of synapse-stroking while riding the pure physicality of a full-on dance/rock record. As lead singer Bobby Gillespie smacks his lips and cheekily proclaims near the record’s end, ‘Ooh-la-la!’”


13. Disclosure Settle (Interscope, 6/11)

WE SAID: “Wildly popular album, brimming with EDM nuggets… Disclosure brings a breath of fresh air to the electronic music scene, taking elements of DJing and elements of live playing and combining them into one perfect blend.”

14. Arcade FireReflektor (Merge, 10/29)

WE SAID: “Although BLURT’s repeated requests for review materials and interview time were rebuffed by the band we still faithfully purchased the album upon its release and were not disappointed. Downtown NYC postpunk circa 1982 meets future-shock disco as filtered through Win Butler’s uniquely populist vision of dystopia and utopia combined.”

15. Matthew Sweet & Susanna HoffsUnder the Covers Vol. 3 (Shout! Factory, 11/11)

WE SAID: “Under the Covers Vol. 3 returns the element of innocent coolness to these New Wave nuggets originally done by R.E.M., Echo & The Bunnymen, Roxy Music, Bongos, dB’s, etc. It’s my new favorite Saturday night record, and if you are of a certain age, I trust it will soon be yours, too.”

16. Queens of the Stone Age  …Like Clockwork (Matador, 6/4)

WE SAID: “The album’s called Like Clockwork, and you can bet that it hasn’t arrived on quite that time-ticking notion – but any day a Queens of the Stone Age record turns up is a good day, eh?”

17. Paul McCartneyNew (Hear Music, 10/15)

WE SAID: “’New’ is right—when you consider Macca’s spotty output over the past decade, during which he solidified his touring rep perhaps at the expense of his studio craft, this album amounts to a comeback and a reaffirmation all at the same time. With nary a duff track here, and brimming with memorable melodies and meaty rhythms, New serves notice that everybody’s fave Beatle hasn’t surrendered a whit of his artistry to the ravages of time.”

18. Frankie RoseHerein Wild (Fat Possum, 9/24)

WE SAID: “La Rose’s transformation from garage rock grrrl (with Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, etc.) to dream-pop dreamboat is hereby complete. Brimming with sonic serendipity and even the occasional left-field cover (here, a stunning cover of the Damned’s “Street of Dreams”), Herein Wild is truth-in-titling.”

19. Johnny MarrThe Messenger (New Voodoo, 2/26)

WE SAID: “The Messenger is the best album in the Smiths-onian tradition since Morrissey’s 2004 You Are the Quarry, boasting an urgency that seems to stem from the rediscovery of what one song title calls the singer-guitarist’s “European Me.” The 49-year-old Marr recaptures the frustration of a teenage guitar-slinger trapped in a north-of-Britain nowheresville.”

20. Darkside Psychic (Matador, 10/8)

WE SAID: “Their music is consistently patient with huge payoffs, from the cagey falsetto of “Golden Arrow” and “Heart” and into the sonorous low pitch of “Paper Trails,” all with the steady climb in energy and intricately-laced, vigorous arrangements.”

21. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More (Merge Records, 9/3)

WE SAID: “Welcome back KK&TS in all their over-the-top glory: picture an alternate universe in which Nuggets had been equally populated by snotty teens and soul revue fiends and you just might get an inkling as to how high the entertainment quotient reaches on these dozen tunes.”

22. Deltron 3030The Event II (Bulk Recordings, 9/30)

WE SAID: “They come across as a thinking man’s hip-hop group – Del has crafted an entire lexicon of words and phrases to describe the futuristic society that they embody, while Dan The Automator’s production is so vividly complex that it requires a great deal of attention.”

23. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day (Rhymes of an Hour, 9/3)

WE SAID: “You can take 17 years off between albums if you happen to Mazzy Star and your return is the even hazier, dreamier, more sun-bleached and twilit Seasons Of Your Day. It’s the return of an old best friend.”

24. SuunsImages du Futur (Secretly Canadian, 3/5)

WE SAID: “A shared aesthetic of jittery, robot-funky beats, murmured vocals, and repetitive keyboard riffs collides with hard-edged dreampop, phased-psych freeform freakouts and trancey Krautrock supreme… Neu! lives!”

25. William TylerImpossible Truth (Merge, 3/19)

WE SAID: William Tyler is, maybe, the best young fingerpicker left since Jack Rose died, effortlessly balancing the feathery complexities of blur -peed picking with the trapdoor-to-the-eternal mysticism of thrumming sustained drones. Most of these songs have multiple movements, distinct changes in style and mood that demonstrate how easily Tyler moves between blues, folk, jazz, baroque classical and psychedelic modes.”

26. 7 Days of Funk (aka Snoopzilla and Dam Funk) – 7 Days of Funk (Stones Throw, 12/10)

WE SAID: “Snoop and the great Dâm deliver an exciting homage to George Clinton’s Computer Games—the Rosetta Stone of G-funk—with eight jams of pure bounce that sum up the last two decades of West Coast rap history in a hair under 40 minutes.”

27. Tommy KeeneExcitement At Your Feet (Second Motion, 9/17)

WE SAID: “I’m in love with rock’n’roll and I’ll be out all night: Keene doesn’t perform Jonathan Richman’s classic “Roadrunner” on this covers collection, but its spirit informs the project. Keene knows the rush of turning on the stereo and hearing that perfect incarnation of free spirited, thrilling rides into the great unknown.” (Full disclosure: album released by BLURT’s sister business Second Motion Records)

28. Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium (ATO, 9/3)

WE SAID: “The seventh Okkervil record all take place back in 1986, in Will Sheff’s hometown of Meriden, NH. But it more than eulogizes that time and space; it brings everything back to life. Rather than swimming in retrospective nostalgia, these songs merge the past with the present.”

29. Two Cow Garage – Death of the Self-Preservation Society (Last Chance, 9/10)

WE SAID: “While The Lumineers are getting Grammy nods by chanting a two-word chorus ad nauseum, Two Cow Garage channel Dinosaur Jr one moment and Johnny Cash the next, mining the best of rock and country and putting it through their own bar room filter. With Micah Schnabel’s stunning shot-and-a-beer poetry, delivered via his trademark strained vocals, the album also boasts some of his best lyrics.”

30. Jim JamesRegions of Light & Sound of God (ATO, 2/5)

WE SAID: “Inspired by an 80 year old novel, My Morning Jacket’s James turns soul-searcher and philosopher. The set eschews songs in any traditional sense, opting instead for murky soundscapes characterized by minimal piano and acoustic guitar, suspended strings and a dense overlay of synths and drums.”

31. Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsLive From KCRW (Bad Seed Ltd., 11/29)

WE SAID: “Recorded live on the Push The Sky Away tour, with an intimate, stripped-down in-studio performance in front of just 180 lucky fans. Push material is ably represented, and there’s a startling mini-trawl through Cave’s back pages, too.”

32. Tony Joe White – Hoodoo (Yep Roc, 9/17)

WE SAID: “It maintains his same swampy m.o. through a series of dark, dense ruminations that find him in a solid groove. His music still retains its roots in the Louisiana bayou, and the fact that Hoodoo finds him as devoted to his muse now as he was when he was tagged “The Swamp Fox” back in the day, demonstrates a decided singularity of purpose.”

33. JC Brooks & the Uptown SoundHowl (Bloodshot, 5/21)

WE SAID: “Loosening the ’60s fetishism and letting soul music be more about feel than form, Brooks and company concentrate on writing strong songs and letting them dictate the grooves. With relaxed conceptual standards but a stronger sense of songwriting purpose, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound finally make their artistic breakthrough.”

34. Wooden ShjipsBack To Land (Thrill Jockey, 10/15)

WE SAID: “They will take you back to heavy psych’s glory days with the steady, drone-like repetition of such classic minimalist composers as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, creating an exciting new level of West Coast psych-rock that should help rattle the establishment for the next generation.”

35. Flaming LipsThe Terror (Warner Bros., 4/16)

WE SAID: “Put simply, it’s the Lips finally fulfilling their dream to become the American Pink Floyd—and that’s no snarky statement. This is trippy, terrifying and timeless.”

36. Howe GelbThe Coincidentalist (New West, 11/5)

WE SAID: “By turns both seductive and sonorous, it’s the kind of album that demands repeated listens, if for no other reason than to try to make sense of Gelb’s tangled pastiche. Though occasionally confounding, it inevitably turns out to be time well spent.”

37. Gov’t MuleShout! (Blue Note, 9/24)

WE SAID: “A unique take on a body of work, one that allows for both a Gov’t Mule recording while also allowing them to pay homage to some of their favorite singers, both heroes and contemporaries. Shout features two discs, one of Mule in the studio performing new songs, and another of the same songs with different vocalists.”

38. Kenny RobyMemories & Birds (MRI, 4/2)

WE SAID: “Six String Drag frontman Roby’s sense of literary precision makes this a grand tableau, well worthy of the sweeping comparisons he’s garnered to Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner and other authors who share his southern sensibilities.”

39. Wesley StaceWesley Stace (Yep Roc, 9/17)

WE SAID: “Rather than flaunt his many skills, Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding) generally maintains low-lit appeal, drifting subtly and softly with an exceedingly smooth croon… An intimate portrait of an artist flush with inspiration, looking through a rearview mirror and gazing in amazement as the distance falls away.”

40. Kurt VileWakin On a Pretty Daze (Matador, 4/9)

WE SAID: “Vile spins out entrancing and trance-like songs based on simple chord progressions and finger-picked themes (think John Fahey). For all their repetition and length, Vile’s casually poetic tales for anomic burnouts are perfectly set within the strum and drone of his musical settings. His melodies meander respecting meter, but always seem to fall into place.”

41. Chris StameyLovesick Blues (Yep Roc, 2/5)

WE SAID: “In all his guises, from his work with The dB’s to his solo undertakings to his 5-star collaborations over the years (raise your hands, Golden Palominos fans) to his impeccable production work, Stamey’s output has consistently been top-notch. With his latest album, he also ups the ante as a songwriter, penning tunes that, true to the title, chronicle a life spent in pursuit of that elusive romantic spark, and he translates that quest via elegant, gorgeous musical arrangements.”


42. Amanda Shires – Down Fell The Doves (Lightning Rod, 8/6)

WE SAID: Down Fell the Doves is as imposing as it is intriguing, a provocative set of songs that lean heavily on ambience and atmosphere. And considering the fact she recently wed fellow provocateur Jason Isbell, these shadowy intents seem to speak to more than a musical makeover than any kind of melancholy mindset.”

43. ObliviansDesperation (In The Red, 5/28)

WE SAID: “Whattaya get? Why, some lo-fi, early ‘90s-inspired garage/punk crud, of course! The band totes lust and distortion and a load of Stones riffs all the way down to the bayou then floats ‘em back upriver totally swamped out; this is one serious nonstop party suitable for, as one song suggests, ‘tearing the whole place down.’”

44. JJ Grey & MofroThis River (Alligator, 4/16)

WE SAID: “What they do is ply their trade with heaping dollops of Muscle Shoals soul, fiercely funky grooves and southern rock swagger, all doled out in substantial doses on This River, that hang heavy with the humidity of Grey’s Florida homeland.”

45. Monster MagnetLast Patrol (Napalm, 10/15)

WE SAID: “The New Jersey heavy rock icon’s tenth album finds leader Dave Wyndorf’s Marvel Comics-and-sci-fi visions swirl to full effect here. Wyndorf and his cohorts sound enthusiastic and engaged, thrilled to be performing a set of songs as good as these. Last Patrol is easily Monster Magnet’s strongest LP in years.”

46. Steve EarleThe Low Highway (New West, 4/16)

WE SAID: “Always a brilliant first-person storyteller, you can imagine just about any of the characters that populate this record – from meth addicts and petty thieves to those down on their luck and thinking of torching the local Wal-Mart. And the best tracks come when Earle focuses on just simply rockin’, as in, ‘fuck ‘em, I’m just gonna have fun’.”

47. BombinoNomad (Nonesuch, 4/2)

WE SAID: “On tour this year as Robert Plant’s opening act, the North African group really showed American crowds what so-called “trance music” was all about. No less so than on this major label release, a mesmerizing collection of moods and grooves.”

48. Waxahatachee Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni, 3/5)

WE SAID: “If Cat Power had been a neurotic Americana artist instead of a neurotic indie-rocker, you might have Waxahatchee, the starkly poetic lass with the unpolished, liquor-and-honey-powered pipes. Her lo-fi previous album was no preparation for this new vision, however, abetted by a three-piece band.” 

49. Temperance League Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams (Like Wow, 10/1)

WE SAID: “Once upon a time we would have called this “heartland rock,” a milieu populated by the Springsteens, the Mellencamps, the Segers and the Pettys, although nowadays that term is probably used pejoratively by the hipsters and ironists who make up the core concertgoing audience. But for those of us who value songcraft over style, and lyrical depth over catchphrase-slinging, we still get it.”

50. Jake BuggJake Bugg (Mercury, 4/9)

WE SAID: “Only 18, Jake Bugg sounds like he’s been around longer on his debut – not in the clichéd sense of being an old soul in a young body, but in being timeless. Rooted in Woody Guthrie/Johnny Cash folkabilly, soaked in both singer/songwriter confession and punk rock defiance, Bugg stands up to the 21st century with only his guitar and a rhythm section.”

51. Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold (What’s Your Rupture?, 1/15)

WE SAID: “Rabid energy mixed with some crazed exuberance and quirkiness… One outstanding aspect to their songwriting is the catchy, repetitive beats and riffs they incorporate regularly, and with mucho gusto, into their songs.”


52. Calexico – Spiritoso (Anti-, 4/26)

WE SAID: “This live symphonic recording reconfigures some of the Tucson band’s best material without sacrificing any of the original magic. Sometimes re-cutting tunes with an orchestra drains the mojo right out of ‘em, but not in this instance. It also makes you wonder why nobody ever thought of pairing up Mariachi horn players with symphony musicians before.”

53. Frank TurnerTape Deck Heart (Interscope, 4/23)

WE SAID: “He’s known best for his injection of wit and humility into songs about growing up, growing old and politics, and even with an acoustic guitar, you still can’t hide the punk kid inside.”

54. Julia HolterLoud City Song (Domino, 8/20)

WE SAID: “Once a bedroom musician, now a conceptual artist, Holter has delivered a mysterious masterpiece that will pull you into its rabbit hole of sonic wonders—and keep you there, fully willing.”


55. David BowieThe Next Day (Columbia, 3/12)

WE SAID: “Ten years is a long time between drinks. But The Next Day is complex, pissed off and crafty. It goes for the jugular, finding blood, violent mythology, vile bodies, infanticide and gruesome death.”

56. Valerie June Pushin’ Against a Stone (Concord, 8/13)

WE SAID: “She can handle the genre-meld all on her own—flavors of country blues, gospel, bluegrass and soul swirl together and mingle harmoniously to form a singular, all-encompassing American music when she’s by herself. But with added production and guest musicians, a fully-fleshed out vision of her songs emerges.”

57. Brianna Lea Pruett – Gypsy Bell (Canyon, 10/1)

WE SAID: “Forget nu-folk, old folk, alt folk, trad folk, or all those other labels pinned on acoustic music these days. Brianna Lea Pruett is the real deal, a dewy eyed folkie who sings of dreamy desire surrounded by ethereal trappings.”

58. Mikal CroninMCII (Merge, 5/7)

WE SAID: “Cronin’s second album filters the lyrical melancholy of confessional pop through a joyfully dissonant, dirt-crusted lens, winding fuzz-frayed guitar lines through sunny miasmas of overtone, threading triumphant melodies through hedge-rows of strident strumming.”


59. Willie NileAmerican Ride (Loud & Proud, 6/5)

WE SAID: “With American Ride, Willie Nile ascends to the uppermost tier of the most revered American musicians and esteemed populist pundits, an elite and exclusive circle of venerable troubadours whose numbers include Springsteen, Dylan, Fogerty, Petty and Mellencamp.”


60. Mavis StaplesOne True Vine (Anti-, 6/25)

WE SAID: “For her second collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, the overall mood is thoughtful and somber: unlike You Are Not Alone, this is a contemplative late-night album rather than a celebratory Sunday morning one. It’s wonderful.”

61. Ezra Furman – Day of the Dog (Bar/None, 10/8)

WE SAID: “Ezra Furman turns existential angst into roadhouse bravado on this second solo LP, framing burnt black lyrics with vamping sax, rollicking piano and double-time romps. He may be “broken, wide-open, bleeding everywhere” (per “The Mall”), but he’s still thrashing around in protest. The protest, in this case, takes the form of rousing, blustery, forget-yourself-in-rock-and-roll arrangements that recall everyone from electric Dylan to classic gospel to Bo Diddley.”

62. Barton CarrollAvery County, I’m Bound to You (Skybucket, 10/15)

WE SAID: “Carroll comes across more like a weathered traditional troubadour than a musician with boundary-breaking ambitions. With a rugged vocal and a stirring set of narratives, he bears a musical kinship to the likes of Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, pundits and purists of the populist variety.”


63. Hiss Golden MessengerHaw (Paradise of Bachelors, 4/2)

WE SAID: “M.C. Taylor and his musical partner Scott Hirsch — along with frequent drumming ally Terry Lonergan — create a mercurial folk-rock atmosphere, populating it with sounds that visit by way of other genres and marking it with the sense of simultaneous doubt and triumph that’s conjured by Taylor’s spiritually charged lyrics.”

64. Ty SegallSleeper (Drag City, 8/20)

WE SAID: “Segall mixes Marc Bolan’s fey plaints and fractured imagery, Peter Perrett’s doomed and dour vocalizations, the wasted romanticism of Neil Young’s basement burn outs and Big Star’s Third’s fragmenting psyches. His guitar changes tend toward Duchampian formalism (borrowed Neil and Bert Jansch motives) -found expressions of emotions dark and light.”

65. Fuck ButtonsSlow Focus (ATP, 7/23)

WE SAID: “Fuck Buttons is defined by a set of guidelines that comprise a kind of ideology. Because both Power and Hung started as visual artists, they often interpret the songs in pictorial terms, as large-scale landscapes. As they finish the tracks, they talk about these images and sometimes reflect them in the titles. Yet the band’s music has a very spiritual quality, and a certain amount of intellectual heft.”

66. Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest (Warp, 6/18)

WE SAID: “It is chock-a-block with everything you have ever loved about the Boards over the last 15-some-odd years and will continue to do so as long as they don’t fancy themselves singer-songwriters like so many of their IDM peers have done in recent years.”

67. Anders Osborne – Peace (Alligator, 10/8)

WE SAID: “The Swedish-born, New Orleans-based bluesman’s most diversified effort yet, one that takes unexpected twists and turns while venturing into realms wholly unexpected, including furtive funk and psychedelic swirl.”

68. Oneohtrix Point NeverR Plus Seven (Warp, 10/1)

WE SAID: “Layered and luminous, yet at the same time loony and languor-inducing, OPN remains one of the electronica scene’s most inscrutable yet compelling act on the planet.”

69. PolvoSiberia (Merge, 9/30)

WE SAID: “Polvo’s sixth full-length stays the masked prog course, working more melody and harmonies into its layers of guitar. Ambitious and inviting, Siberia puts Polvo in a more accessible place while remaining faithful to its artistic vision.”

70. DirtbombsOoey Gooey Chewy Kablooey(In the Red)

WE SAID: “Anybody who listens closely to Dirtbombs records knows there’s actual craft going on under the red levels, and on Ooey Gooey Chewy Kablooey Mick Collins lets it show. Allegedly a bubblegum record, in reality this is Collins’ take on psychedelic pop, with twinkling keyboards, polite guitars and a heretofore unimagined Collins croon that could charm the panties off a lesbian punk rocker.”

71. Bardo PondPeace on Venus (Fire)

WE SAID: “Don’t look for minimalism here. These tracks roar, sprawl and obliterate, in a hypnotic, heavy-booted march to enlightenment. Wall-sized guitar tones fray and blister into dissonance, drums pound in monolithic, relentless forward motion, and Isobel Sollenger’s voice floats over the roil and racket like a dream you had once as a child.”

72. My Bloody ValentineMBV (MBV, 3/19)

WE SAID: “Peculiarly patterned as a “before, during, after” triptych of sorts, it sounds like the band wanted to (a) resume work on Loveless; (b) expand upon what Loveless established; and (c) then just fuck around and have fun. It’s all very fascinating and inscrutable, just like we love ‘em.”

73. Laura MarlingOnce I Was an Eagle (Ribbon, 5/28)

WE SAID: Eagle combines the dark drama of British folk balladry, North African rhythmic propulsions and sheer performance intensity in ways that evoke acoustic Led Zeppelin more than Marling’s previously familiar Joni Mitchell moves. The songs’ emotion spills out over the conventional boundaries of singer-songwriter’s mannerly idioms.”


74. BarbezBella Ciao (Tzadik, 8/27)

WE SAID: “Barbez is hard to classify, but let’s give it a shot. They are a large ensemble, ethnically curious, jazz-experimental, proggily complex outfit with a tendency to explore beautifully obscure corners not just of the music world, but also of literature. This album performs musical alchemy with Roman Jewish liturgical song, taking ancient, archetypical melodies and embellishing them with complex swathes of stringed instruments, clarinet, Theremin, malleted percussion, guitar, bass and drums.”

75. Parson Red HeadsOrb Reader (Fiesta Red, 10/1)

WE SAID: “They channel their inner Byrds, what with the billowy harmonies, spiraling riffing and celestial trappings. Traces of other ‘70s harmony bands of can be detected as well — Poco, Pure Prairie League, Firefall and, on the reverent ballad “Time,” CSN themselves.”

FAREWELL: Music World Passings of 2013

Lou-Reed 2

We pay our final respects to Lou Reed and many, many more that we lost in 2012.


 I quote myself from last year: Having performed this annual ritual for years now, I’ve learned to take a quiet comfort in pulling together notes and combing the internet to learn names, dates, causes of death – and the artistic achievements that prompt us to memorialize the people in the first place. So as you scan down the list of those who did leave us this year, pause when you reach an artist who was particularly special to you, and meditate momentarily on why he or she was special. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it does dovetail into virtually every musical genre and discipline (it additionally includes a handful of non-musicians), and it touches equally upon the obscure and the well-known. For the sake of clarity, particularly if it’s a more obscure artist, in some instance we’ve added the affiliation/group or genre.

 On a personal note, the loss of Lou Reed hit very, very hard, and it was by far the most frequently-cited 2013 death among the BLURT staffers and contributors, too. Perhaps no rock death in recent years has loomed so large.

 And after you pay your own last respects, pledge to seek out those artists who are still with us and who are important to you, and let them know in some way how much you appreciate them. (Special thanks to the Rev. Keith Gordon, regular contributor and the man behind the Blues blog, with whom I always consult on these matters.)

 *BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2012

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2011

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2010

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2009

*BLURT’s farewell to music passings of 2008



1 Patti Page

12 Precious Bryant

17 Robert “Chicago Bob” Nelson

29 George Higgs (bluesman)

29 Butch Morris (jazzman)

30 Ann Rabson (Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women)

30 Patty Andrews (Andrews Sisters)


4 Donald Byrd

14 Tim Dog

16 Tony Sheridan

17 Mindy McCready

18 Kevin Ayers

21 Morris Holt, aka Magic Slim

21 Cleotha Staples (Staples Singers)

25 “Dangerous Dan” Toler (Gregg Allman Band, Dicky Betts Band)


6 Alvin Lee (Ten Years After)

7 Peter Banks (Yes, Flash)

12 Clive Burr (Iron Maiden)

19 Harry Reems

27 Paul Williams (rock critic and Crawdaddy! founder)

28 Hugh McCracken

28 Robert Zildjian

30 Phil Ramone (producer)


1 Johnnie “Mr. Johnnie” Billington (Mississippi bluesman)

4 Carmine Infantino

7 Les Blank

10 Jimmy Dawkins (bluesman)

11 Don Blackman (jazz-funk pianist)

13 Chi Cheng (Deftones)

15 Scott Miller (Game Theory, Loud Family)

21 Christina Amphlett (Divinyls)

22 Richie Havens

26 George Jones


2 Jeff Hanneman (Slayer)

11 Ollie Mitchell (Wrecking Crew)

18 Zach Sobiech

20 Ray Manzarek

29 Mulgrew Miller (jazzman)


2 Mandawuy Yunupingu (Yothu Yindi)

2 Mick Deth (Bleeding Through)

8 Arturo Vega (punk designer)

14 Tom Tall (rockabilly)

19 Chet Flippo (journalist)

19 Slim Whitman

21 Mary Love (soul singer)

23 Bobby “Blue” Bland

24 Alan Myers (DEVO)


1 John Riley Brown, aka “Texas Johnny Brown (bluesman)

16 James Carter Ford, aka “T-Model” Ford

20 Faye Hunter (Let’s Active)

25 Kongar-ol Ondar (Russian Tuvan throat singer)

26 JJ Cale

31 Alvis Wayne (rockabilly)


4 Tim Wright (Pere Ubu, DNA)

8 Cowboy Jack Clement

10 Eydie Gorme

10 Joy Payne (Willie Nelson)

13 Jon Brookes (Charlatans UK)

13 Tompall Glaser

14 Allen Lanier (Blue Oyster Cult)

18 Wes Dakus (rockabilly)

19 Cedar Walton

20 Marian McPartland (jazzwoman and NPR radio host)


7 Fred Katz (jazzman)

11 Prince Jazzbo (reggae)

11 Mats Oosson

15 Jackie Lomax (songwriter, early Apple Records signee)

16 Mac Curtis (rockabilly pioneer)

18 Lindsay Cooper (Henry Cow, Comus)

24 Pat Fear, aka Bill Bartell (White Flag)

27 Oscar Castro-Neves (bossa-nova)


8 Philip Chevron (The Pogues)

10 Cal Smith

12 Marc Trovillion (Lambchop)

15 Gloria Lynne

19 Noel Harrison

23 Gypie Mayo (Dr. Feelgood, Yardbirds)

26 Al Johnson

27 Lou Reed

30 Pete Haycock (Climax Blues Band)

30 Bobby Parker (bluesman)


6 Clyde Stacy

25 Chico Hamilton

25 Tony Brevett (The Melodians)

27 Aaron Moore (bluesman)


2 Junior Murvin

5 Nelson Mandela

5 Andy Pierce (Nasty Idols)

7 Robert “Chick” Willis (bluesman)

10 Jim Hall (jazzman)

12 Tom Laughlin

16 Ray Price

19 Herb Geller (jazzman)

20 Eric “Guitar” Davis (bluesman)

20 Lord Infamous (Three 6 Mafia)

23 Ricky Lawson (R&B drummer)

23 Yusef Lateef (jazzman)

29 Benjamin Curtis (School of Seven Bells)

REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Best and Worst of 2013


What stood out in the music world for 2013? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Above: Jason Isbell.


 As part of our 2013 year-end wrap-up—go elsewhere on the BLURT site to view our Best Albums Of 2013, or go here to read our feature/interview with Artist Of The Year Jason Isbell—we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for 2013. The first section has the lists for the staff, while the second section has those submitted by some of the regular contributors. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim.

Also check out our 2012 coverage:

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012



 Top 10 New Releases

Avett Brothers – Magpie & the Dandelion (Universal)

Scott Miller — Big, Big World (F.A.Y. Recordings)

Harmed Brothers — Better Days (Fluff and Gravy)

Bill Mallonee – Beatitude (independent)

David Berkeley — The Fire in my Head (independent)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit — Southeastern (Southeastern Records)

Parson Red Heads — Orb Weaver (Fiesta Red)

Dawes — Stories Don’t End (HUB)

Kim Richey – Thorn In My Heart (Yep Roc)

Steep Canyon Rangers — Tell the Ones I Love (Rounder)

 Top 5 Archival/Reissues 

John Hiatt — Here to Stay – Best of 2000 – 2012 (New West)

Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait (Sony/Legacy) (Note: Believe it or not, I liked Self Portrait

Yes — The Studio Albums 1969 – 1987 (Rhino)

The Animals — The Mickie Most Years and More (ABCKO)

Sly and the Family Stone — Higher (Epic/Legacy)

 Top 5 Music DVDs  

Rolling Stones — Sweet Summer Sun (Eagle Vision)

Bruce Springsteen — Springsteen & I (Eagle Vision)

Various — Love for Levon (StarVista/Time Life)

Various — Move Me Brightly, A Documentary Concert Film Celebrating Jerry Garcia’s 70th Birthday (Eagle Vision)

Eric Clapton Guitar Festival — Crossroads (Rhino)

 Top 5 Music Books 

Paul Kelly — “How To Make Gravy” (Penguin)

Marc Spitz — “Poseur, A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the ‘90s” (DaCapo)

David Berkeley — “140 Goats & A Guitar” (Strawman Books)

Howard Sounes — “A History of the 27 Club” (DaCapo)

Bill Carter and Judi Turner — “Get Carter” (Fines Creek)

 Top 5 Concerts I Attended

Telluride Bluegrass Festival — Telluride Colorado; several days in July

Americana Music Festival — Nashville Tennessee; several days in September

Bonnie Raitt — Hollywood FL, Hard Rock Live a the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino; November 30

Lauderdale Live — Fort Lauderdale;  December 8

Brian Wilson, Jeff Beck, Al Jardine, David Marks (warm-up gig) – Hollywood, FL, Hard Rock Live a the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, September 27

 Top 5 Films


The Great Gatsby


The Butler

Thor II

 Best Record Label: New West (The best in Americans!  Although Yep Roc, 429, Eagle and Bloodshot all deserve kudos as well)

Best Music-related Website: YouTube

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: Lou Reed

Best New Artist: Shovels & Rope

Worst New Artist: Miley Cyrus (Okay, she’s not new, but she did try to reinvent herself. Yechh)

Dumbest Band Name: Gloom Balloon — my, that sounds cheery — blow me up and then pop me!

Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging: Bob Dylan — Another Self-Portrait

Why? Because the Bobster drew it himself and how often does the Bobster reveal anything of himself? Besides, the booklet is great — lots of cool photos and erudite commentary.

Hero of the Year: Jason Isbell — Proof that a good old boy from Alabama can be an eloquent populist hero every bit as vital as Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty or any other heartland hero.

Asshole of the Year: The publicist who insists that CDs are on the verge of extinction and that downloads are the way of the future. Talk about a Gloom Balloon!

Best Hair or Facial Hair: Avett Brothers (most of the time — Jon Bon Jovi, move over — you’ve been usurped).

Sweetest Buns: That sweet and innocent blonde girl singer on “Nashville” — sorry, don’t know her name.

Nicest Package: ditto above.

2014 Release I Am Most Anticipating: Small Faces box set, Here Come from the Nice

Coolest Trend or Whatever: Sorry, not sure I detected one. Perhaps the ever-increasing populism of today’s music and the desire of artists to reach out and involve their fans.

Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend or Whatever: Twerking

Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn:

I’m hopelessly addicted to music, and though I spend nearly every waking album outside my day job laboring in its service, I do so in order to acquire new discs, see free concerts free and interview my rock ‘n’ roll heroes. Yes, even at my age, music continues to define my life. Hankie please… (PS, I’m not on LinkedIn, so you read it here first!)

Favorite story or review I wrote for BLURT:


Ian McLagan — A dream fulfilled. A member of one two of my favorite bands of all time sharing his incredible backstory with yours truly. (Story coming in January at BLURT)

Tom Jones — Mr. Jones remains a truly a nice man and a humble guy, even despite his incredible trajectory and true life stories. He insists that he simply loves to sing, and although he’s now 70-something, he’s singing better than ever. His latest albums are the definitive proof. (feature, “The Triumphs And Challenges Of Being”)





Top 10 New Releases
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)
Waxahatchee- Cerulean  Salt (Don Giovanni)
Kelley Stoltz- Double Exposure (Fat Possum)
Kinski- Cosy Moments (Kill Rock Stars)
William Tyler- Impossible Truth (Merge)
Lisa Germano- No Elephants (Badman)
Mikal Cronin- MCII (Merge)
Califone- Stitches (Dead Oceans)
Sam Amidon- Bright Sunny South (Anti-)
Savages- Silence Yourself (Domino)

 Top 5 Archival/Reissues
Come- 11:11 (Matador)
Venom P. Stinger- 1986-1991 (Drag City)
Various Artists- Afrobeat Airwaves 2: Return Trip to Ghana (Analog Africa)
Verlaines- Juvenalia and Hallelujah All the Way Home (Captured Tracks)
Various Artists-  Kill Yourself Dancing (Still Music)


2. The Savages ACL Blurt



 Top 10 New Releases

Jake Bugg – s/t (Mercury) / Shangri-La (Jake Bugg/Island)

Capsula – Solar Secrets (Krian)

Clutch – Earth Rocker (Weathermaker)

Coliseum – Sister Faith (Temporary Residence)

The Dexateens – Sunsphere (Cornelius Chapel)

Kylesa – Ultraviolet (Season of Mist)

Willie Nile – American Ride (Loud & Proud)

Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

Scorpion Child – s/t (Nuclear Blast)

Pat Todd & the Rankoutsiders – 14th & Nowhere… (Rankoutsider)

Top 10 Archival/Reissues

Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me (Omnivore)

The Bottle Rockets – The Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side (Bloodshot)

Roky Erickson – The Evil One, Don’t Slander Me and Gremlins Have Pictures (Light in the Attic)

Godflesh – Hymns (The End)

Horseback – A Plague of Knowing (Relapse)

Jellyfish – Radio Jellyfish (Omnivore)

Scott Morgan – Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust (Easy Action)

Nikki Sudden – The Boy From Nowhere, Who Fell Out of the Sky (Troubadour/Easy Action)

The Swimming Pool Q’s – The A&M Years (Bar/None)

Irma Thomas – In Between Tears (Alive Naturalsound)

 Top 10 Tracks/Singles

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away”

Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”

Föllakzoid – “Trees”

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “Chase the Feeling”

In Solitude – “Sister”

Jason Isbell – “Elephant”

Michael Monroe – “The Ballad of NYC”

Monster Magnet – “Mindless Ones”

Motörhead – “Do You Believe”

Steven Wilson – “Drive Home”






Top 10 New Releases

Kevin Morby/Harlem River (Woodsist)

Califone/Stitches (Dead Oceans)

Baptist Generals/Jackleg of the Devotional  (Sub Pop)

Parquet Courts/Light Up Gold (What’s Your Rupture?)

Bo White/Adornments (Kinnikinnik) (

Foxygen/We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar)

Lady/Lady (Truth & Soul)

Yellowbirds/Songs from the Vanished Frontier (Royal Potato Family)

Nick Cave/Push the Sky Away (Anti-)

Temperance League/Rock & Roll Dreams (Like, Wow!)

 Honorable Mention

Mount Kimbie/Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (Warp)

Bill Callahan/Dream River (Drag City)

Shannon Wright/In Film Sound  (Ernest Jenning)

The Sadies/Internal Sounds (Yep Roc)

Throwing Muses/Purgatory-Paradise (It Books)

Brokeback/Brokeback & the Black Rock (Thrill Jockey)

Eleanor Friedberger/Personal Record (Merge)

Ghost Wave/Ages (Flying Nun)

Water Liars/Wyoming (Fat Possum)

Holopaw/Academy Songs, Vol. 1 (Misra)

 Honorable Honorable Mention: Arp/More; Chance the Rapper/Acid Rap; Okkervil River/The Silver Gymnasium; Xiu Xiu/Nina; Josephine Foster/I’m a Dreamer; Yo La Tengo/Fade; Son Volt/Honky Tonk; Promised Land Sound/Promised Land Sound; Rogue Wave/Nightingale Floors; William Tyler/Behold the Spirit; Golden Gunn/Golden Gunn; Mikal Cronin/MCII; Shearwater/Fellow Travelers; Amor de Dias/The House at Sea; Barton Carroll/Avery County, I’m Bound to You; Howe Gelb/The Coincidentalist

 (Matt Berninger of The National)

Matt Berninger by Merrick Marquie



 Top 10 New Releases (in reverse order)

The National – Trouble Will Find Me (4AD). Brilliant record from a band that just keeps getting better and better.

My Bloody Valentine – MBV (MBV). So many years waiting for this, I do wish it was a ‘little’ better but certainly a stellar album and worthy of top ten and the wait.

Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day (Rhymes of an Hour). The surprise of the year. I was very skeptical of them making a record after all of these years and wow, back in 100% true form, brilliant and beautiful.

Brianna Lea Pruett – Gypsy Bells (Canyon). Placerville, CA singer/songwriter Brianna Lea Pruett releases her debut for Canyon Records, the oldest record label in the country. With her Native American Cherokee roots, it’s the perfect artist for them to expand their roster—and wow, what a great album Bri has made, very proud of this record.

Besnard Lakes – Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO (Jagjaguwar). The ‘new’ artist I discovered this year, and how the hell did I not listen to their records before this album? Friends had told me before to check these guys out: where have they been my whole life? Incredible. The record before this one is scarily even better.

Kenny Roby – Memories & Birds (Little Criminal/MRI). Six String Drag’s front man Roby breaks out to make a beautiful heartfelt album that just gets better with every listen. Six String Drag are going into the studio early next year as well; surely more people will discover this hidden gem in the process.

Paul McCartney – New (Hear Music). The surprise of the year part deux. I mean come on it’s McCartney, we know the dude can write some song, but WOW. What an amazing record. This is going out on a limb here but this is my favorite album he has done since Ram.  Second Favorite behind the Beatles, must have.

The Knife – Shaking The Habitual (Mute)
Perfect album to play in the store, two discs and lasts forever! So no having to go change the record.  This album takes you on a journey, in many different places and is beautiful throughout from top to bottom.

Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving (Matador). Since Sonic Youth is one of my all-time favorite bands, I don’t take their break-up lightly and do look at side- and now full-time new projects with excitement, but skepticism. I’ve always loved Thurston’s solo albums, but this is the best thing he has ever done outside Sonic Youth.

Jason Isbell – Southeastern (Southeastern). What can I say about this record? It’s just a masterpiece, plain and simple. Incredible songs. This year was a no brainer when Fred Mills and I picked BLURT’s Artist Of The Year. From the moment we heard this album we knew this was the choice, no debate, no discussion—it’s Isbell’s year and thank you from my ears for making this beautiful record. In the end, it’s about the songs and this delivers full steam.  Not even a halfway-okay song on the album: all are winners.

 Honorable Mention

Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw (Paradise of Bachelors)
Ana Calvi – One Breath (Domino)
Jim James – Regions of Light & Sound of God (ATO)
Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

Polvo – Siberia (Merge)
Tonk – Let’s Keep It Dark (Future Standards)
Johnny Marr – The Messenger (New Voodoo)
Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador)
Love Language – Ruby Red (Merge)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds  – Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed LTD)
Tommy Keene – Excitement At Your Feet (Second Motion)




 Top 10 New Releases

Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart (Interscope)

Dave Hause – Devour (Rise)

Two Cow Garage – The Death of the Self Preservation Society (Last Chance)

Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band – Promises to Deliver (Dead Broke)

The Smith Street band – Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams (Asian Man)

Joy of Painting – Tender Age (South Division)

Crazy & The Brains – Let Me Go (Baldy Longhair)

Banquets – Banquets (Black Numbers)

Bad Religion – True North (Epitaph)

The Avett Brothers – Magpie and the Dandelion (American)

 Top 5 Music Books 

Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris and the Renegades of Nashville by Michael Streissguth (It Books)

Mo’ Meta Blues: the World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Grand Central Publishing)

Nilsson: the Life of a Singer-Songwriter by Alyn Shipton (Oxford University Press)

27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse by Howard Sounes (Da Capo Press)

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook (It Books)

 Best Record Label: Black Numbers

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: Lou Reed

Best New Artist: Banquets

Dumbest Band Name: Perfect Pussy

Asshole of the Year: (tie) Kanye West and Justin Bieber

2013 Release I Am Most Anticipating: Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Favorite story or review I wrote for BLURT: Big Country (interview: “Stay Alive”)

(Julia Holter)

Julia Holter



 Top 10 New Releases

Sam Baker – say grace (Sam Baker Music)

Kenny Roby – Memories & Birds (Little Criminal)

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – Take Me to the Land of Hell (Chimera Music)

Jason Isbell – Southeastern (Southeastern)

Julia Holter – Loud City Song (Domino)

Lonnie Holley – Keeping a Record of It (Dust-to-Digital)

Nick Cave – Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)

Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone (Concord)

Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light (Constellation)

Mavis Staples – One True Vine (Anti-)

 Top 5 Tracks/Singles

Charles Bradley (featuring the Budos Band) – Changes (Dunham)

Flamin’ Groovies – End of the World (self-released digitally)

Parquet Courts – Stoned and Starving (What’s Your Rupture?)

Clare Maguire – Half Hearted Love (self released)

 Paul McCartney – Early Days (Hear Music)

 Top 5 Archival/Reissues

Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (Columbia)

Various Artists – There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving 1966-1971: Lee Hazlewood Industries (Light in the Attic)

Hackamore Brick – One Kiss Leads to Another (Real Gone Music)

Peter Walker – Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms? (Delmore Recording Society)

Dave Van Ronk – Down in Washington Square (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)

 Top Music Books

I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp – Richard Hell

Anyone Who Had a Heart – Burt Bacharach

The Holy or the Broken – Alan Light

 Best Record Label: Anti-

Best Music-Related Website: Blurt Magazine Online for turning me on to great new albums by Kramer, the Distractions and the Sharp Things. [There will be an extra 50 bucks in your paycheck this week, Rosen. – Ed.]

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: Lou Reed

Best New Artist: Parquet Courts

Dumbest Band Name: Joanna Gruesome

Best Comeback: (tie) The Rascals and the Flamin’ Groovies

My Favorite Blurt Story in 2013: Hackamore Brick (interview, “Not So Thick As A Brick”)

Random Comment: If the Everly Brothers can garner three tribute albums in a year, they ought to reunite if they’re in a position to do so.

(The Replacements back in the day)

Replacements 1



[Blurt editorial contact: No spammin’!]

 Top 10 13 New Releases

Jason Isbell – Southeastern (Southeastern)

Those Darlins – Blur The Line (Oh Wow Dang)

Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (Loma Vista)

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)

Kenny Roby – Memories & Birds (MRI)

Charles Bradley – Victim Of Love (Dunham/Daptone)

Besnard Lakes – Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO (Jagjaguwar)

Temperance League – Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams (Like Wow)

Tommy Keene – Excitement At Your Feet (Second Motion)

Frankie Rose – Herein Wild (Fat Possum)

Brother Dege – How to Kill A Horse (GolarWash Labs)

Wayne Shorter Quartet – Without A Net (Blue Note)

Kramer – The Brill Building (Tzadik, 1/8)

 Top 10 11 Tracks/Singles

Cut Copy – “Free Your Mind”

Those Darlins – “In the Wilderness”

Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”

Superchunk – “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” 7”

Disclosure – “When A Fire Starts to Burn”

Flamin’ Groovies – “End of the World”

Arcade Fire – “Reflektor” (12” dub mix)

Warpaint – “Biggy”

Peter Buck – “(You Must Fight to Live) On the Planet of the Apes” 7”

Thee Midnight Creep – “Get Messed Up!” (demo)

Avicii – “Wake Me Up”

 Top 10 14 Archival/Reissues

Seefeel – Quique LP (blue vinyl, Modern Classics/Light In The Attic)

The Birthday Party – Live 81-82 and Mutiny/The Bad Seed (Drastic Plastic/4AD)

The It*Men – Greatest Its (Stow House)

Holger Czukay – On the Way to the Peak Of Normal (Groenland)

The Clash – Sound System box (Sony Legacy)

Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips 1984 EP (Lovely Sort Of Death)

Various Artists – There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving 1966-1971 Lee Hazlewood Industries box (Light In the Attic)

Humble Pie – HPerformance Rockin’ the Fillmore: The Complete Recordings


Cosmic Psychos – Down On The Farm/Cosmic Psychos/Go The Hack (Goner)

Deviants – Ptooff! (Angel Air)

Various Artists – Cooler Than Ice: Arctic Records and the Rise of Philly Soul box (Jamie/Guyden)

Family – Once Upon a Time box (Snapper)

Damon – Song of a Gypsy (Now-Again)

Various Artists – Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost R&B Grooves From Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979 (Secret Stash)

 Top 10 Music DVDs

Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me (Drew DiNicola, dir.)

Saint Etienne – A London Trilogy: The Films of Saint Etienne 2003-2007 (Paul Kelly, dir.)

Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection (via MVD)

The Stooges & Special Guests – Tribute to Ron Asheton: Live from Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater April 19, 2011 (via MVD)

Various Artists – Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 box (prod. by Amnesty International, via Shout! Factory)

The Best of Fridays (via Shout! Factory)

Jimi Hendrix Experience – Here My Train A Comin’ (Bob Smeaton, dir.)

I Dream of Wires: Hardcore Edition (subtitle: exploring the history, demise and resurgence of the ultimate electronic music machine, the modular synthesizer) (Robert Fantinatto, dir.)

Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop (Graham Jones, dir.)

Rolling Stones – Crossfire Hurricane (Brett Morgen, dir.)

 Top 10 Music Books

Democracy of Sound, by Alex Sayf Cummings (Oxford University Press)

Detroit Rock City, by Steve Miller (Da Capo Books)

VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, by Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter and Martha Quinn, with Gavin Edwards (Atria Books)

The Art of British Rock: 50 Years of Rock Posters, Flyers and Handbills, by Mike Evans (Frances Lincoln Limited)

Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine, ed. by John Holmstrom and Bridget Hurd (It Books)

Recombo DNA: The Story of DEVO, by Kevin C. Smith (Jawbone)

Shell Shocked: My Life With the Turtles, Flo & Eddie and Frank Zappa etc…., by Howard Kaylan with Jeff Tamarkin (Backbeat)

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, by Peter Hook (Simon & Schuster)

Scorched Earth: A Jason & the Scorchers Scrapbook, By Rev. Keith A. Gordon (Excitable Press)

There Was A Time: Rock & Roll In The 1960’s In Charlotte, And North Carolina, by Jacob Berger and Daniel Coston (Fort Canoga Press)

 Top 10 11 Concerts I Attended

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Austin, TX, Stubbs, March 13

Jason Isbell – Raleigh, NC, Lincoln Theatre, July 2

Charles Bradley – Austin, TX, Moody Theatre (Daptone Soul Revue), March 14

Besnard Lakes – Austin, TX, Ginger Man Pub (Blurt Party). March 15

Suuns – Raleigh, NC, Schoolkids Records, Sept. 6

Spiritualized – Raleigh, NC, Hopscotch Music Festival, Sept. 7

Robert Plant / Bombino – Cary, NC, Koka Booth Amphitheater, July 20

Shoes – Austin, TX, Ginger Man Pub (Blurt Party), March 15

Temperance League, Raleigh, NC, Sadlack’s Patio, Oct. 4

Gross Ghost – Raleigh, NC, Schoolkids Records, Nov. 1

Gabriel Sullivan & Taraf de Tucson, Austin, TX, Speakeasy (Tucson Music Night), March 16

 Top  5 7 Films

Dear Mr. Watterson documentary (Joel Allen Schroeder, dir.)

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, dir.)

World’s End (Edgar Wright, dir.)

Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements (Gorman Bechard, dir.)

American Hustle (David O. Russell, dir.)

Mel Brooks: Make A Noise documentary (Robert Trachtenberg, dir.)

Room 237 (Rodney Ascher, dir.)

 Top 10 Music Videos

Hickoids – “Cool Arrow”

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Higgs Boson Blues”

Major Lazer – “Jet Blue Jet”

Bipolaroid – “Efflorescent Adolescent”

Temperance League – “(That, You Can) Count On”

The Ettes – “You Were There”

Bettie Serveert – Monagamous”

Jason Isbell – “Traveling Alone”

Brother JT – “Sweatpants”

Jon Langford reads “A Bloodshot Christmas”

 Best Record Label: Stones Throw

Best Music-related Website: Mashable (yeah, I know it’s actually a TECH site, but music sites have gotten progressively boring and redundant)

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: Lou Reed

Best New Artist: Savages

Worst New Artist: Chvrches

Dumbest Band Name: Chvrches (here’s a great article on the whole “weird/dumb” name phenom:

Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging: Various Artists – There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving 1966-1971 Lee Hazlewood Industries box (Light In the Attic). A stack o’ CDs lodged in an LP-sized hardbound book that also includes a slotted Lee H. business card AND a red vinyl flexidisc… this is pure art, on the level of classic Rhino productions. (And that Arctic Records box was pretty damn sweet, too.)

Worst Album Sleeve Art: David Bowie – The Next Day (Columbia). C’mon folks, this isn’t even classic Bowie postmodernism at work—to paraphrase Spinal Tap, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid. Or in this case, between ironic and lazy.

Hero of the Year: Nelson Mandela

Asshole of the Year: M.I.A.

Fave Internet Meme of 2012: the ongoing brilliance of Rickrolls (Rick Astley) extends to a new generation of bait-and-switch videos

Best Hair or Facial Hair: Jack White

Sweetest Buns: Nikki Kvarnes of Those Darlins

Nicest Package: Editorial Disclosure: I offered this category to the writers, thinking it would be a nice counterbalance to the “Sweetest Buns” category, above, given how “sweetest buns” could easily be perceived as sexist in the current—and, dare I say, ridiculously overheated—P.C. climate of mediaspeak. (Awhile back yours truly was accused of sexism by making a post that employed the standard rockspeak vernacular of “chicks” when referring to the fairer sex. Oops, I did it again.) Across the board, however, not a single contributor to our year-end lists picked up the correct ball and ran with it: they repeated or offered a variation on another above category, “Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging,” and no one queried me on the presumed redundancy. So, I dumped all those spurious responses. Still, in the interest of closure, let’s clarify: Nicest Package, as in, er, that “package” you see healthily bundled in the front of Robert Plant’s pants in all those vintage Led Zeppelin video clips. And for 2013, I submit: Robert Plant, who toured the sheds this past summer and wowed all comers (including me and my 12-year old kid, both of us digging all the classic Zep tunes reworked with an African flair), and still demonstrated, front and center, that he still brings it, front and center, a million times more prominently than all you teeny-weenie Brooklyn hipster rockers. Sorry, indie rock chicks, you just don’t know what you’re missing. If you’d been around in the ‘70s you might’ve had a chance to play with the big boys, if you catch my drift.

2014 Release I Am Most Anticipating: Billy Sedlmayr – Charmed Life. As of this writing, self-released (fans who pledged to the Kickstarter campaign received their pre-release digital copies in late December), but so absolutely deserving of label patronage that I’m hoping someone at a label reads this. An Arizona legend and a mainstay of that state’s classic “desert rock” scene that spawned Sidewinders, Giant Sand, Naked Prey, etc., Billy Sed teams up here with next-gen icon Gabriel Sullivan for a tour de force of biting, purposeful psych, Latin-flecked folk and, yes, desert rock.

Coolest Trend or Whatever: The ongoing rise of streaming (Spotify, et al) as a means of accessing all music, any time, any place: it’s the ultimate sonic democratizer. And while it can’t possibly take the place of the real-world experience of shopping and hanging out at a brick-and-mortar record store, not everybody—including some of the BLURT writers—has the luxury of living in proximity to a record store or feels like ordering stuff from Amazon. When I was a kid, I would read about so many cool records that I had no chance of hearing: the first two Big Star albums are a perfect example. Those days are gone, luckily.

Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend or Whatever: Year-end best-of music polls like this. Nobody is interested in reading what a bunch of navel-gazers has to say other than the navel-gazers themselves, or that peculiar breed of music geek who somehow feels that making a list empowers him with some vague kind of High Fidelity-esque cool that makes him stand out compared to his peers (I call this the “my dick is bigger than your dick” syndrome). Bah. I don’t bother any more—this year I didn’t even bother to send in my Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll, something I’ve been doing regularly for over a quarter-century—and I’ll let you in on a little secret: my list here that you are reading was actually generated by a small armada of RocCrit Bots!

Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn: That despite my so-called “status” as an “engage” music editor and writer, I feel no obligation whatsoever to respond to the scores of generic email pitches I receive at my in-box. I mean, would YOU answer 300 pieces of bulk mail-generated spam (with fake “personalized” salutations) each day?

Favorite story or review I wrote for BLURT: Though from my archives, given the unexpected Replacements reunion this year, it seemed more relevant than ever, and wholly worth dusting off, polishing up, and posting: “Bob’s Babysitter: A Replacements Story”

(Neko Case)

Neko Case2

Jason Gross

New York, NY

 Top 10 New Releases:

Fidlar – Fidlar (Mom+Pop)
Bad Religion – True North (Epitaph)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Columbia)
Deerhunter – Monomania (4AD)
Stooshe – London With the Lights On (Warner Bros)
MacG – Freedom (no label)
Telekinesis – Dormarion (Merge)
Deltron 3030 – The Event II (Bulk Recordings)
Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down (The Leaf)
Burial Rival – Dealer (Hyperdub)

Top 10 Tracks/Singles

Twin Shadow “Old Love/New Love” (Rockstar Games)
Kastra “Eminem vs. Daniel Portman vs. Zeds Dead – Breathe In That Air (Kastra & Jon Fox Bootleg)” (no label)
Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines (Buffetlibre Remix)” (no label)
Ezra Furman “American Soil” (Bar/None)
Rudimental Featuring Emeli Sande and Nas “Free (Remix)” (Big Beat Records/Atlantic)
Big Sean Featuring Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica “Control” (no label)
Nonono “Pumpin’ Blood” (Warner Bros)
Cumulus “Hey Love” (Trans- Records)
Konshen “Gal a Bubble” (Major Lazer x Bro Safari x ETC! ETC! Remix)” (no label)
Hellsongs “Equality” (Tapete)

Top 10 Archival/Reissues 

Ella Fitzgerald – Best of BBC Vaults (Universal Music Group)
Various Artists – Scared To Get Happy- A Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989 (Cherry Red)
Grateful Dead – May 1977 (Grateful Dead)
Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol 2 (Legacy)
George Jones – The Complete United Artists Solo Singles (Omnivore)
Swamp Dogg – Total Destruction to Your Mind (Alive)
Shoes – Present Tense: Demos 1978-1979 (Numero Uno)
The Clean – Vehicle (Captured Tracks/Flying Nun)
Orchestre Poly-rythmo de Cotonou – Volume 3 The Skeletal Essences Of Voodoo Funk (Analog Africa)
Various Artists – The Rough Guide To Latin Psychedelia (World Music Network)

Top 5 Music DVDs

Hear My Train A-Comin’
The Punk Singer
20 Feet from Stardom
AKA Doc Pomus
Big Star- Nothing Can Hurt Me

Top 5 Music Books

Questlove – Mo’ Meta Blues
Toure – I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon
Robert Gordon – Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion
Elaine Constantine – Northern Soul- An Illustrated History
Bob Stanley – Yeah Yeah Yeah- The Story of Modern Pop

Top 5 Concerts I Attended

Kanye West/A Tribe Called Quest – Madison Square Garden, NYC, November 2013
Lou Reed tribute show- Rodeo Bar, NYC, November 2013
Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto at Met Museum May 2013
Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Flaming Lips/The Darkness- Prospect Park, Brooklyn, May 2013
Clearwater Festival, Croton-On-Hudson, NY, June 2013

Top 5 Films

The World’s End
The Way Way Back
Dallas Buyer’s Club
12 Years A Slave
American Hustle

Top 5 Music Videos

William Tyler “A Portrait of Sarah”
Cookie Monster- “Me Want it”
Virgin Mobile ‘Retrain Your Brain’ featuring Wayne of Flaming Lips
Chris Hadfield “Space Oddity”
Graveola “Babulina’s Trip”

Best Record Label:

Tie: Slumberland and Kanine

Best Music-related Website: Perfect Sound Forever (sorry but I’m a self-booster)

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: Lou Reed

Best New Artist: Icona Pop

Worst New Artist: Avicii

Dumbest Band Name: Diarrhea Planet

Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging & Why: Grateful Dead- May 1977 – even the mailer that they send it out in is beautiful!

Worst Album Sleeve Art & Why: Kanye West- Yeezus – meant to be an anti-art statement but just looked stupid and lazy (good album though)

Hero of the Year: Nelson Mandela

Asshole of the Year: Phil Robertson

Fave Internet Meme of 2012: Anything but Harlem Shake

Best Hair or Facial Hair: Omar Souleyman

Sweetest Buns

Mei Li Wah in Chinatown NYC- best roast pork buns!

2014 Release I Am Most Anticipating:

Another no-advance-notice CD release like Bowie or Beyoncé

Coolest Trend or Whatever: Artists continuing to use sites like Bandcamp to sell their albums or at least promote themselves

Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend or Whatever: Music journalists finding it harder and harder to make a living

Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn: iPad keyboard apps might turn me into a new age artist!

Favorite story or review I wrote for BLURT

Erkin Koray (reviews)





 Top 10 New Releases

Jason Isbell – Southeastern (Southeastern)

Mikal Cronin – MCII (Merge)

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle (Ribbon)

Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador)

Waxahatchee – Cirulean Salt (Don Giovanni)

John Murry – The Graceless Age (Evangeline Recording)

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away (Bad Seeds Ltd.)

Superchunk – I Hate Music (Merge)

Neko Case – The Worse Things Get …(Anti-)

Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

Honorable mention:, Deerhunter – Monomania (4AD), The National – Trouble Will Find Me (4AD), Torres (Self-released), Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork (Matador), Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana (Carpark), Linda Thompson – Won’t Be Long Now (Pettifer Sounds), Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone (Concord)

 Top 10 Archival/Reissues

Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait (Legacy)

Grateful Dead – Sunshine Daydream: Veneta, Oregon 8/27/72 (Rhino)

The Band – Live at the Academy of Music 1971 (Universal)

The Clash – Sound System (Legacy)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours Deluxe Edition (Rhino)

Neil Young – Live at the Cellar Door (Reprise)

Roky Erickson –The Evil One/Don’t Slander Me/Gremlins Have Pictures (Light in the Attic)

Nirvana – In Utero : 20th Anniversary Edition (Universal)

Duane Allman – Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective (Rounder)

The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas (Merge)

 Best Songs

Neko Case – Nearly Midnight, Honolulu (Anti-)

Yo La Tengo – Ohm (Matador)

Chvrches – Recover  (Glassnote)

Prince – Screwdriver (Purple Music)

Jason Isbell – Cover Me Up (Southeastern)

The National – I Should Live in Salt (4AD)

Arcade Fire – Reflektor (Merge)

Mikal Cronin –Weight

Savages – She Will (Matador)

Vampire Weekend – Diane Young (XL)

 Best Concerts

Prince –March 16, La Zona Rosa, Austin, TX

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – March 13, Stubb’s, Austin, TX

Stevie Wonder – Sept. 28, Central Park, New York, NY (Global Citizen Festival)

The Roots/Parquet Courts – April 25, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY

Yo La Tengo – Dec. 13, The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY

Neko Case – Sept. 26, Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY

(Bob what’s-his-name)


 Ron Hart

Ringwood, NJ

 Top 10 New Releases

Kanye West Yeezus (Def Jam)
Daft Punk Random Access Memories (Columbia)
Chris Thile Bach: Sonatas and Partitas (Nonesuch)
Atoms for Peace AMOK (XL Recordings)
David Bowie The Next Day (Columbia)
Drake Nothing Was The Same (Young Money-Universal Republic)
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Shady-Aftermath)
Elvis Costello & The Roots Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)
Darkside Psychic (Matador)
Bill Callahan Dream River (Drag City)

 Top 10 Archival/Reissues 

Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait (Legacy Recordings)

Roky Erickson and the Aliens The Evil One/Gremlins Have Pictures/Don’t Slander Me (Light in the Attic)

Duane Allman Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective (Rounder)

Sly and the Family Stone Higher! (Legacy Recordings)

Damon Songs for a Gypsy (Now-Again)

R.E.M. Green 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Rhino)

Elvis Presley Elvis at Stax (Legacy Recordings)

Fleetwood Mac Then Play On Expanded Edition (Rhino)

Four Tet Rounds (Domino)

Songs: Ohia Magnolia Electric Company: 10th Anniversary Edition (Secretly Canadian)

 Best Record Label: Drag City

Best Music-related Website:

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: Lou Reed

Best New Artist: Perfect Pussy

Dumbest Band Name: Foxygen

Hero of the Year: Daniel Bryan

Asshole of the Year: No comment (cough cough, Billboard).

Fave Internet Meme of 2013: Joffrey Bieber 

2014 Release I Am Most Anticipating: Beck’s Morning Phase

Coolest Trend or Whatever: Cassettes

Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend or Whatever: cronyism in mainstream music journalism

Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn: I am watching professional wrestling again. If you don’t like it, learn to love it.

Favorite story or review I wrote for BLURT: The Men (interview, “Are We Not Men”)


Jordan Lawrence

Columbia, SC

 Top 10 New Releases

Mikal Cronin, MCII (Merge) Because I’m 17 again!

Chris Forsyth, (Paradise of Bachelors) Because it needs no more cowbell.

Arnold Dreyblatt & Megafaun, Appalachian Excitation (Northern Spy) Because it’s Arnold Dreyblatt AND Megafaun.

Hiss Golden Messenger, Haw (Paradise of Bachelors) Because believing is hard.

Mountains, Centralia (Thrill Jockey) Because form should follow function.

Inter Arma, Sky Burial (Relapse) Because metal should feel this infinite.

Body/Head, Coming Apart (Matador) Because Kim Gordon wins.

Joint D≠, Satan Is Real Again, Again, or: Feeling Good About Feeling Good About Bad Thoughts (Sorry State) Because it’s somehow better than last year’s Joint D≠ record.

Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels (Fool’s Gold) Because if El-P didn’t do it, get the fuck out of here.

The National, Trouble Will Find Me (4AD) Because I get drunk sometimes.


Michael Berick

Los Angeles, CA

 Top 10 New Releases

Jason Isbell – Southeastern (Southeastern)

Divided And United: Songs of the Civil War – Various Artists (ATO)

Dr. Dog – B Room (Anti)

Courtney Jaye – Love And Forgiveness (self-released)

The White Buffalo – Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways (Unison Music Group)

Slaid Cleaves – Still Fighting The War (Music Road)

Milk Carton Kids – The Ash & Clay (Anti)

Band of Heathens- Sunday Morning Record (BOH Records)

The Melodic – Effra Parade (Anti-)

Escondido – The Ghost of Escondido (Kill Canyon)

 Top 10 Archival/Reissues

Bottle Rockets – Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side (Bloodshot)

Various Artists – The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917-1932)  (Revenant/Third Man

Waitresses – Just Desserts (Omnivore)

Townes Van Zandt – High, Low And in Between (Omnivore)

Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait (Columbia)

Buck Owens – Buck ‘Em (The Music of Buck Owens 1955-1967(Omnivore)

Speed The Plough – The Plough & The Stars (Bar-None)

Swimming Pool Q’s – The A&M Years (Bar-None)

REM – Green (Rhino)

Hackamore Brick – One Kiss Leads To Another (Real Gone Music)

 Best new artist(s): The Melodic, Escondido and Milk Carton Kids

Best New Christmas Song: Nick Lowe- Christmas At The Airport


Tom Speed

Oxford, Miss.

 Top 10 New Releases

Valerie June: Pushin’ Against A Stone (Concord)

Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition: White Buffalo (Fat Possum)

Jason Isbell: Southeastern (Southeastern)

Jonathan Wilson: Fanfare (Downtown)

Kurt Vile: Wakin On A Pretty Daze (Matador)

Yo La Tengo: Fade (Matador)

Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar)

Water Liars: Wyoming (Fat Possum)

Blitzen Trapper: VII (Vagrant)

Shannon McNally: Small Town Talk (Sacred Sumac Music)

 Coolest Trend or Whatever: Crowdfunding

Top Reissue: Woody Guthrie: American Radical Patriot (Concord/Rounder)

Dumbest Band Name: Diarrhea Planet

Favorite Story I Wrote For Blurt: It was fun driving down to Taylor, Miss. to drink beers in an old cotton field with Jimbo Mathus. I even made it home with a souvenir—a 45 rpm record of “Chokin’ On A Lude” by his first band, Johnny Vomit & The Dry Heaves. (interview, “The Education of Captain Catfish”)




 Top 10 New Releases

Savages – Silence Yourself (Pop Noire/Matador)

Black on Black – Get on With It (self-released)

Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular)

Grant Hart – The Argument (Domino)

Bad Religion – True North (Epitaph)

Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (Matador)

Superchunk –  I Hate Music (Merge)

Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni Records)

The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law (Atlantic)

Many Moods of Dad – Consequence of Trying (You Are Already Dead)

Mudhoney – Vanishing Point (Sub Pop

 Best Soundtrack: CBGB- The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Best Music Related Documentary: Nothing Can Hurt Me: The Story of Big Star

Best show attended this year:  Bob Mould w/ The Pedaljets – Lawrence, KS, The Bottleneck

Favorite Interview I conducted this year for BLURT:  Gorman Bechard, director of Every Everything: The Life, Times and Music of Grant Hart and Color Me Obsessed (interview, “One Man’s Obsession”)

Best Things that happened to me this year: Running into Bob Mould in the lobby of my hotel the morning after his show in Lawrence, KS (super nice guy) and having my BLURT review of Every Everything: The Life, Music and Times of Grant Hart chosen for inclusion in the “Best Rock Writing of 2013 Anthology” from That Devil Music.

What I hope for in 2014: That Miley Cyrus stops making music, Kanye loses the ability to speak, an extensive world tour for The Cure that I can attend, to interview Dave Grohl, and that Morrissey finally learns to shut his trap.





 Top 10 New Releases

Willie Nile — American Ride  (Loud & Proud Records) The most recent album in this veteran New York artist’s late career resurgence, American Ride is one of his best. It finds Nile tackling rock and roll anthems (This is Our Time, If I Ever See the Light), lovely ballads (She’s Got My Heart), Tin Pan Alley (Sunrise in New York City) and a blistering cover of the Jim Carroll classic People Who Died. A great record from an inspiring guy.

 The Cliks — Black Tie Elevator  (Bandwidth Entertainment) The third proper studio outing from Lucas Silveira and company largely abandons the rock of the first two Cliks discs in favor of soul, reggae and blues — but it still sounds great!

 Starnes & Shah — Shilling for Dreamtown  (self released) The latest from these two NYC-area ladies is a fine album of folk/pop/rock that highlights their lovely harmonies. Listen to the song Gatling Girl once and you won’t be able to get it out of your head for a week.

 Reed Turner — Ghosts in the Attic  (self released) Impressive album from this Austin-based, country-influenced singer-songwriter. Highlights include the haunting title track and Killed That Girl (Cause She Was Killing Me). Who can’t relate to a sentiment like that??

 Paul McCartney — New (MPL/Hear Music) Not Macca’s best but a very good disc nonetheless… One that finds him equally at home rocking out or being sentimental and which proves that even in his 70s, he has no intentions of slowing down.

 Kanisha K. — self titled (Daddy Rocks)

We Are the Wilderness — Descending from Paramount (self released)

We Were Lovers — Pyramids (self released)

The Strokes — Comedown Machine (RCA)

Julia Weldon — Light is a Ghost (self released)

  Top 5 Archival/Reissues

The Clash — Sound System (Sony Legacy)

The Monroes — What Do All the People Know (Music Power)

The Waitresses — Just Desserts: The Complete Waitresses (Omnivore)

Fanny — self titled (Real Gone Music)

Boz Scaggs — The Essential Boz Scaggs (Sony Legacy) 

 Top Music Book: Boys Don’t Lie: A History of Shoes by Mary E. Donnelly

 In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: Lou Reed “Something flickered for a minute… and then it vanished and was gone.”  RIP.

 Best New Artist: Julia Weldon

 Asshole of the Year: Chris Brown (for the second year in a row!)

 2014 Release I Am Most Anticipating: Mary Gauthier’s next studio album (which will be the follow-up to her brilliant 2010 release, The Foundling).

 Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend: Record stores in NYC continue to close at an alarming rate due to a combination of soaring rents and more people downloading music instead of buying physical records and CDs. One of the latest casualties, Bleecker Bob’s, finally shut down in 2013. Bob’s was a legendary store which had been around since the 1970s and which I lived across the street from for 20 years. Though the clerks could be gruff at first, most of them were quite nice once you got to know them. And they had a great selection of vinyl that ranged from old jazz and soul to tons of punk, post-punk and New Wave gems.

Favorite story or review I wrote for BLURT: The Monroes (interview, “What Do They Know?)



Steve Wilson

Lawrence, KS

 Top 10 New Releases

Babyshambles, Sequel to the Prequel: Pete Doherty continues to toss off appealing tunes; the band has a brilliant nonchalance.

The Beatles, On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2: Better than the first BBC collection, fresh 50 years later. George especially is a revelation, as guitarist and singer.

David Bowie, The Next Day: His best in more than 30 years and a competitor to some of his classics.

Danny Brown, Old: As zonked as Cody Chesnutt and just as human and soulful.

Eleanor Friedberger, Personal Record: Off-hand, synthetic, seductive songs that explore and reveal.

Laura Marling, Once I Was an Eagle: Remarkable young talent. She almost makes me re-evaluate my Joni Mitchell problem.

Oblivians, Desperation: Fourteen tunes in a half-hour and change. The Oblivians bring it all back home.

Sonny and the Sunsets, Antenna to the Afterworld: The boy next door with the surprising record collection, and his head in the clouds.

Those Darlins, Blur the Line: Insinuating with each listen Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett and Loretta Lynn tossed like a salad.

King Khan & the Shrines, Idle No More: Rocking guitars, funky horns, shots of salvation.

Ezra Furman – Day of the Dog: Mangy Lou/Jonathan/Gordon descendant, mixes rock tropes with tics and flair.

 Favorite story or review I wrote for BLURT: King Khan (interview, “Spiritual Salvation”)


Steve Klinge

Wilmington, DE

Top 10 New Releases
Bombino – Nomad (Nonesuch)

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away (Anti)

Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe (Universal)

Iron & Wine, Ghost on Ghost (Nonesuch)

The National, Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)

Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold (2012 originally but 2013 rerelease) (What’s My Rupture?)

The Pastels, Slow Summits (Domino)

Rhye, Woman (Republic)

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City (XL)

Yo La Tengo, Fade (Matador)




 TOP 10  (#1-10)

Palma Violets – 180 (Rough Trade)

Connections- Private Airplane  & Body Language (both on Anyway Records)

Crocodiles- Crimes of Passion (French Kiss)

Mikal Cronin-  MCII  (Merge)

The Proctors- Everlasting Light (Shelflife)

The Mantles- Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)

Dick Diver- Calendar Days (Chapter Music)

Math and Physics Club- Our Hearts Beat Out Loud (Matinee)

Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

The Moondoggies- Adios, I’m a Ghost (Hardly Art)

 WAIT, HERE’S 10 MORE!  (#-11-20)

Anders & Kendall- Wild Chorus (9 Mile Records)

Beach Fossils- Clash the Truth (Captured Tracks)

Veronica Falls- Waiting for Something to Happen (Slumberland)

King Khan & the Shrines- Idle No More (Merge)

Joanna Gruesome, Weird Sister (Slumberland)

Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador)

The Bongos- Phantom Train (Jem/ MVD)

Thalia Zedek- Via (Thrill Jockey)

Caitlin Rose- The Stand-In (ATO)

Arts & Leisure- Choose Your Adventure (Test Pattern)

  WAIT…….10 MORE!  (#21-30)

The Zoltars- Walking Through the Dark (CQ Records)

The Night Marchers- Allez Allez (Swami)

La Luz-  It’s Alive (Hardly Art)

Neko Case- The Worse Things Get…. (Anti)

Sex Tides- Flash Fuck (A Wicked Company)

Pat Todd and the Rank Outsiders – 14th and Nowhere (Rankoutsider Records)

The Brother Kite- Model Rocket (Claire)

Silver Screen- When You and I Were Very Young (Plastilina)

Sweet Talk- Pickup Lines (12XU)

The Crookes- Hold Fast (Modern Outsider )

 10 MORE THAT I LOVED AS WELL…. (#31-40)

Ski Lodge- Big Heart (Dovecote)

Estrangers- Season of 1000 Colors (self released )

Chris Forsyth- Solar Motel (Paradise of Bachelors)

Muuy Biien- This is What Your Mind Imagines (HHBTM)

Bye Bye Blackbirds- We Need the Rain (Self released)

Legs- Pass the Ringo (Loglady)

Autistic Youth- Nonage (Dirtnap)

Underground Lovers- Weekend (Rubber Records)

Barton Carroll- Avery County, I’m Bound to You (Skybucket)

Club 8- Above the City (Labrador)

Northern Portrait- Ta! (Matinee)


Azure Blue- Beyond the Dreams There’s Infinite Doubt (Matinee)

The Ocean Blue- Ultramarine (Korda/ Shelflife)

Cults- Static (Columbia)

Daniel Romano- Come Cry with Me (Normaltown Records)

Camera Obscura- Desire Lines (4AD)

Weekend- Jinx (Slumberland)

Pure Bathing Culture- Moon Tides (Partisan)

Superchunk- I Hate Music (Merge)

The Last- Danger (End Sounds)

Bubblegum Lemonade- Some Like it Pop (Matinee)


Honey LTD- The Complete LH1 Recordings (Light in the Attic)

The Three O’Clock – The Hidden World Revealed (Omnivore)

Beachwood Sparks- Desert Skies (Alive/ Total Energy)

Belle & Sebastian-  The Third Eye Centre (Matador)

Townes van Zandt- Sunshine Boy (Omnivore)

The Primitives- Everything’s Shining Bright; The Lazy Recordings- 1985-’87 (Cherry Red)

Rose Melberg- September (Lost Sound Tapes)

Alex Chilton- Electricity by Candlelight/ NTC 2/13/97(Bar None)

Tommy Keene- Excitement at Your Feet (Second Motion)

The Chills- Somewhere Beautiful (Fire)


The Clean- Vehicle (Captured Tracks)

The House of Love- s/t (Cherry Red)

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It- Bostin Steve Austin (Cherry Red)

Dump- Superpowerless and I Can Hear Music (both on Morr Music)

The Primitives- Lovely (Cherry Red)

Come- 11:11 (Matador)

The Ventures- Walk, Don’t Run (el/ Cherry red)

New Bomb Turks- Destroy oh Boy! (Crypt vinyl reissue)

Tiny Tim- God Bless Tiny Tim  (Now Sounds/ Cherry Red)

The Mountain Goats- All Hail West Texas (Merge)

  MY 5 FAVORITE EP’s OF 2013

Males- Run Run Run/ Males Males Males (Fishrider)

Mascott (Cost/Amount (Kiam)

Wild Nothing- Empty Estate (Captured tracks)

Blue-Eyed Son- Shadows on the Sun (Eenie Meenie)

Drivin n’ Cryin- Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock (New Records)

(Yo La Tengo)