RecommNeds | Mid-Year In Case You Missed It Edition

#ICYMI

With the first half of 2014 in the books, it’s time to take stock of what we’ve got here. I hope you’ve checked out at least a couple of my Weekly RecommNeds over the past 6 months and found some new music that fits your taste. I’ve got plenty more lined up and I’m sure there will be some surprising new discoveries in the second half of the year to add to the queue.

For now, here are 10 albums that you really should be listening to that you might have missed. Half of these were previous picks and half are albums that hopefully you’ve already been listening to, but I feel obligated to point out to you… just in case. This is just a taste, though, please check out my list of my favorite 50 albums of the 1st half of the year or better yet, check out my Spotify playlist of my favorite albums of the year which is updated monthly. Of course, your recommendations are always appreciated, so feel free to drop me a line or hit me on Twitter with your favorite picks.

For now, in case you missed it…

(in alphabetical order)

Nicole Atkins – Slow Phaser

Nicole Atkins continues to operate in that not-quite-under-the-radar/not-quite-as-big- as- she-should-be region that’s either a sweet spot or rock and roll purgatory, depending on who you ask. If you ask me, this is one of the best rock albums of the year: ambitious in breadth with fantastic songs that find the perfect balance between rockin’ and groovin’…and Atkins, with that unique purr of a voice, kills it top to bottom.

Causa Sui – Live at Freak Valley//PapirIIII

Did I say 10 albums? I’m going to cheat a little and pair these two El Paraiso releases together because I love ‘em to death and they go together like meat and cheese. Quite simply, if you’re looking for instrumental mindsauce, you’re not going to find anything better than these two albums. Monster jams: long, patient, building, “WTF!”-inducing. Did you ignore my previous and repeated nudging to check these out? Well, don’t make the same mistake twice! Best. Shit. Ever. And I’ll repeat my plea to get these guys to come to the USA (get in touch, I’ll be sure to make it happen).

Jungle By NightThe Hunt

This was featured in a column a few weeks back and my repeated listening hasn’t lessened my love for this one. Jungle By Night is an Amsterdam-based Afrobeat band that takes the genre to some dark and interesting places without losing the funky-as-funk backbone; little bit psychedelic, little bit out there, whole lotta groovy. Their newest album has no weak tracks and is equally perfect for a dance party or a late night couch-bound zone- out. 

Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son

The best albums are more than just a collection of songs, they work as a larger narrative or an alternate reality, a journey, an epic. They are more like a novel in this regard. Damien Jurado’s newest falls into this category. Yes, the songs on their own are excellent: a dreamy, hypnotic, folk-pop. But listened to start to finish, the album transports, it travels and transposes. I’ll assume that someone has already given you the “you should check this out” rec on this one, but if somehow it’s slipped past your radar…

Mark McGuire – Along the Way

Sometimes even great instrumental music lacks a certain emotional heft. This is not a problem with Mark McGuire’s newest album. The exquisite beauty of these pieces is as emotionally charged as anything I’ve heard in years. There are plenty of great musicians out there building gorgeous sound collages with looping and sample guitar melodies, but few of them that might very well bring you to tears in the process. This isn’t to say there isn’t a strong thread of technical skill running through this record, there’s plenty of that too. So good it deserves a second ReccomNedation.

Natural ChildDancin With Wolves

If esoteric, Northern European instrumental bands aren’t your bag (but really, they should be), perhaps you’d enjoy the what’s-not-to-love rock of Natural Child. These guys hit several of those buzz words like “Laurel Canyon” and “Southern Rock,” but really these guys have distilled all the good flavors from the Nashville sound in one smooth shot- and-a-beer album. This is my favorite of several great 2014 roots rock albums.

Thee Oh SeesDrop

For a split second, there was word going around that Thee Oh Sees were going on an indefinite hiatus. A couple months later, John Dwyer & band resurfaced with Drop sounding as good as ever. If you haven’t checked these guys out, now’s your chance. This is loud and chaotic garage rock, psychedelic and punk all rolled into a best-played-at-high-volume package. There are no breathers here, just a constant explosion of cracking good rock and roll.  But don’t let that scare you, this is a controlled bonfire, blazing with heat and light but unless you go and do something stupid, you won’t get hurt.

Tinariwen Emmaar

The backstory on Tinariwen and the making of this album is filled with geopolitical intrigue and the kind of shit you can’t imagine. The music, the genre is Tuareg, from the Sahara, absorbs some of that in its energy and emotion, but, like Tinariwen’s previous work, it shimmers with the heat and haze of the desert. Guitar dervish interplay and muted percussion interpret and reinvent western rock; sometimes it feels like this music is merely a representative of a world beyond our reach, and sometimes it’s just really damn good music.

Woods With Light And With Love

In a recent show review, I remarked how the Brooklyn band Woods has grown beyond just a band and more the center of a musical universe: a label, a sound, etc. Still, they are a band, and a phenomenal one that keeps getting better at that. Without too much hyperbole, in my opinion, their newest album is a bit of a masterpiece, the kind of album you wish your favorite jamband could make. The easygoing vibe masks a set of superlative material – there are two or three songs of the year candidates on here – and some heady excursions. Which is to say that beautifully written and performed three-minute gems and a nine-minute jammer shine equally bright on With Light and With Love. I know most of you already know all this, but in case you missed it…

Woodsman – Woodsman

Finally, because I know you can’t get enough, one more super-psychedelic, jammed-out instrumental album for you. This one is from Brooklyn trio, Woodsman, who were featured in a RecommNeds column a couple months back.

As I said back then, these guys “bend two guitars and drums around the space-time continuum to dizzying effect” and I stand by it today. I totally and utterly recommend. Enjoy!

Written By: Aaron Stein

[Published on: 7/3/14]

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