Last Year (Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party)

Posts to this official Greater Listening Area full site were next to non-existent this past year, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening. Through the miracle of modern streaming I had the chance to listen to over 275 new albums and EPs from 2015. (Don’t worry, though, as my new vinyl collection grew substantially this past year with the best of the best releases.) Individual tracks were highlighted throughout the year at our Facebook page because sometimes you just have to get the music to the people on the fly.

These are my 20 favorite new releases from 2015:

1) Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs (Drag City)

2) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit… (Mom + Pop)

3) Biters – Electric Blood (Earache)

4) Wreckless Eric – AmERICa (Fire)

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

6) Bill Fay – Who Is the Sender? (Dead Oceans)

7) Simon Joyner – Grass, Branch and Bone (Woodsist)

8) Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)

9) Gun Oufit – Dream All Over (Paradise of Bachelors)

10) Zane Campbell – Zane Campbell (Emperor Records)

11) The Cairo Gang – Goes Missing (God?)

12) Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon (True Panther Sounds)

13) Promised Land Sound – For Use and Delight (Paradise of Bachelors)

14) Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)

15) Ryley Walker – Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)

16) Vetiver – Complete Strangers (Easy Sound Recording Co.)

17) Howlin’ Rain – Mansion Songs (Easy Sound Recording Co.)

18) Dungen – Allas Sak (Mexican Summer)

19) John Krautner – Fun With Gum Vol.1 (Burger)

20) GospelbeacH – Pacific Surf Line (Alive Naturalsound)

Note/Public Service Announcement (updated for 2015): The Greater Listening Area believes that one would be out of their mind to not take advantage of the available streaming services and the ability to listen to almost anything and everything one’s little ears might desire (unless it’s on the Drag City label or by Adele). With that said, it’s no secret that recording artists and songwriters don’t get fairly compensated in this modern music biz model. It’s my belief that one should pay into the stream with a premium subscription, and we should all be mindful of the importance of purchasing physical or digital recordings and other artist merchandise and getting out to live shows.  Better yet, we should purchase music at a show from the artist, through a label’s website or at your local independent record store.  Finally, when you hear something that deserves it, share it with your friends and readers from your various social media platforms. 

Happy New Year and here’s to uncovering the Top 20+ of 2016.

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Hi-Five (Plus Five + Five + Five + Five): My Favorite New Albums of 2014

2014 was yet another stellar year for new music, but then again aren’t they all?  The good stuff has always been out there. It just takes some digging to find the records that might be worthy of your time.  This year I listened to over 225 new albums and EPs. These are the 25 titles that rose to the top (Artist /Title /Record Label):

1) Wussy – Attica! (Shake It Records)

2) Reigning Sound – Shattered (Merge Records)

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

4) Sweet Apple – The Golden Age of Glitter (Teepee Records)

5) Ex Hex – Rips (Merge Records)

6) Withered Hand – New Gods (Slumberland Records)

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

8) Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian)

9) Pure X – Angel (Fat Possum Records)

10) Sonny Knight & The Lakers – I’m Still Here (Secret Stash)

11) Pink Mountaintops – Get Back (Jagjaguwar)

12) Ryley Walker – All Kinds of You (Tompkins Square)

13) The Fauntleroys – Below The Pink Pony EP (Plowboy)

14) Allah-Las – Worship the Sun (Innovative Leisure)

15) Paul Collins – Feel The Noise (Alive)

16) Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers (Merge Records)

17) Nude Beach – 77 (Don Giovanni)

18) Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else (Bloodshot Records)

19) Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art)

20) Twin Peaks – Wild Onion (Grand Jury Music)

21) Natural Child – Dancin’ With Wolves (Burger Records)

22) Warm Soda – Young Reckless Hearts (Castle Face)

23) Sylvie Simmons – Sylvie (Light In the Attic)

24) Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol)

25) Budos Band – Burnt Offering (Daptone Records)

Note/Public Service Announcement: The Greater Listening Area believes that one would be out of their mind to not take advantage of the available streaming services and the ability to listen to almost anything and everything one’s little ears might desire (unless it’s on the Drag City label or by Taylor Swift). It’s also our belief that one should pay into the stream with a premium subscription, and we should all be mindful of the importance of purchasing physical or digital recordings and other artist merchandise and getting out to live shows.  Better yet, we should purchase music at a show from the artist, through a label’s website or at your local independent record store.  Finally, when you hear something that deserves it, share it with your friends and readers from your various social media platforms. 

Happy New Year and here’s to uncovering the Top 25+ of 2015.

My Impression Now

I have long sung the praises of the month of March. The promise of the impending Spring and baseball seasons, the widely distributed Girl Scout cookies, and yes, the pull of those brackets all contribute to the month running a close second to Rocktober. It’s the musical climate, though, that has really made the month in recent years.
As the calendar flips to March, the floodgates open for new releases. Bands and labels of the indie variety set a course for the South By Southwest Festival. Even if you’re like me and can’t make the trip to Austin, podcasts, webcasts and social media bring you the build-up, the highlights, and the aftermath. You can practically hear the buzz and smell the barbecue all the way up here in Ohio. Here’s a six pack of artists that made a serious impact on me this month who also happened to play SXSW:

As a kid I would read “Strange But True Baseball Stories.” Now I listen to The Baseball Project. Their new album “Third” is out now on Yep Roc. They get better with every release. Happy Opening Day!

Ex Hex is the latest outfit from Mary Timony who’s best known for her work in the nineties band Helium. She most recently brought a cool 1970’s rock sensibility to the band Wild Flag, and that carries over here. (From my snowy environs in NE Ohio, I caught a webcast of an Ex Hex set at Waterloo Records in Austin, and they even covered Johnny Thunders.) They are signed to Merge Records, and their debut 7″ just hit the racks.

Why wouldn’t I like the post-punk band Protomartyr? Some have observed that their vocalist, Joe Casey, appears somewhat older than his Detroit bandmates and doesn’t resemble your average indie circuit musician. We have a fine tradition of unlikely frontmen here in Ohio as well (Robert Pollard, Ron House, Jim Shepard, David Thomas), and Casey’s vocal style and world outlook are welcome. Protomartyr’s next longplayer, Under Color of Official Right, is due out 4/8 on the Hardly Art label.

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness out now on the Jagjaguar label.

Natural Child – Dancin’ With Wolves out now on Burger Records

Withered Hand‘s “Black Tambourine” might be the perfect pop song: Jingle-jangle verses, tasteful backing vocals, a soaring chorus, a mini-bridge that soars even higher, a distorted guitar solo, lyrics about loneliness, a lingering organ outro and yes… tambourine. The astonishingly good LP “New Gods” is available now on Slumberland Records. .

See It My Way: My Top 25 LP’s of 2013

2013 was bursting with great new music from beginning to end. Due to the wonders of modern access, headphones at the day job, and a long commute,  I spent time with upwards of 175 releases this year including reissues.  These were my 25 favorite new albums of the rock & roll sort that emerged from the heap (Artist /Title /Record Label):

1) Superchunk – I Hate Music (Merge Records)

2) Mikal Cronin – MCII (Merge)

3) Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar)

4) Califone – Stitches (Dead Oceans)

5) Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw (Paradise of Bachelors)

6) John Murry – The Graceless Age (Evangeline Recording)

7) Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You  (Anti)

8) Charles Bradley – Victim Of Love (Daptone)

9) The Julie Ruin – Run Fast (The Julie Ruin Records)

10) Lee Ranaldo & The Dust – Last Night On Earth (Matador)

11) Sonny & The Sunsets – Antenna To The Afterworld (Polyvinyl)

12) Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Adam Green & Binki Shapiro (Rounder)

13) Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

Top 11-25

14) Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador)

15) Holydrug Couple – Noctuary (Sacred Bones)

16) Phosphorescent – Muchacho (Dead Oceans)

17) Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)

18) Barrence Whitfield and the Savages – Dig Thy Savage Soul (Bloodshot Records)

19) Chris Forsyth – Solar Motel (Paradise of Bachelors)

20) La La Brooks – All or Nothing (Norton Records)

21) Steve Gunn – Time Off (Paradise of Bachelors)

22) Of Montreal – Lousy With Sylvianbriar (Polyvinyl)

23) Wooden Shjips – Back To Land (Thrill Jockey)

24) Promised Land Sound – Promised Land Sound (Paradise of Bachelors)

25) King Khan & The Shrines – Idle No More (Merge)

After everything shook out, it was interesting to see how the labels fared.  North Carolina labels registered almost a third of the spots and “the majors” really weren’t anywhere to be found.  The tops: Paradise of Bachelors (4), Merge (3), Matador (3), Dead Oceans (2), Polyvinyl (2)

These hits and other Greater Listens will be spotlighted daily over at the Greater Listening Area’s Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/TheGreaterListeningArea

Visit us there for the Now Sounds and a few surprises on Wayback Wednesdays as well.

Note/Public Service Announcement: The Greater Listening Area believes that advance listens and streaming are wonderful things, but that we should all be mindful of the importance of purchasing physical or digital recordings and other merchandise and getting out to live shows.  Better yet, we should purchase music at a show from the artist, through a label’s website or at your local independent record store.  Finally, when you hear something that deserves it, share it with your friends and “Shout it Out” from your own social media platforms. 

Happy New Year and here’s to finding the Top 25 of 2014.

Shout It Out

I have been obsessing about rock music since about the age of nine, and it has informed every aspect of my worldview. After paying close attention since the mid-1970’s, I am still thrilled by music on a daily basis. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s moving. Intoxicating. I am talking goosebump-inducing. It’s what keeps me young, inspired, and living in the moment.

Due to opportunity and today’s digital access, I am digging up worthy musical discoveries both new and old with more frequency than ever. I plan to curate some of my favorite finds… uh…er greater listens  for this space, but my larger vision of this site includes some tracing of the evolution of my rock and roll geekitude.  Placing musical discoveries and experiences into a personal context is what I hope separates these posts from the overwhelming barrage that the online soundscape offers.  There’s no shortage of encouragement out there to “watch THIS” or “stream THAT,” and some of us slog through alot of it on a daily basis. 

Let me be your filter. I am definitely one of those “YOU GOTTA HEAR THIS“ guys, though. When I make that discovery, I want to shout it out and take others along for the ride.  Take for example this grin-inducing blast:

Shout It Out  by Mikal Cronin

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gFTCkyeTuAY

Mikal Cronin‘s album MCII will be available on Merge Records on May 7th. If Shout It Out is any indication, this release should propel us happily right into summer.