There's a ton of best of lists floating round the internets right now, and the strange thing is, every time I read a list of the best albums of 2014, I end up seeing albums that are completely different from the ones I liked this year, apart from Run The Jewels 2, which has made an appearance on a hell of a lot of lists, deservedly so. Can't wait to see those cats live in early January, when they make it back to NZ.
So, am I just looking for a list to validate my musical choices for the year? Not really - I like what I like. But end of year lists are a great way to check for albums you may have missed, or slept on. Been studying them for that.
Albums I've caught up with so far this week from various best of lists include the latest from Ghostface Killah (36 Seasons), the very cool Sun Ra collection on Strut, and the Bad Bad Not Good album. Here's a few of my favourite albums from this year.
Lee Fields and the Expressions - Emma Jean
Off the back of a stunning live show at the Powerstation at the start of the year, Mr Fields and band return with his third album for NYC's Truth And Soul label, and it's a strong set. I reviewed it for 13th Floor here, and it's still one of my faves.
On the same tip, the latest album from Sharon Jones and The Dapkings, Give the people what they want, made it onto a few end of year best of lists, but for me, it's a bit weak in the songwriting department, compared to their last album.
Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband
When this gorgeous album dropped back in May, I wrote "I really love their debut [album], but of the followup albums Machine Dreams didn't fire for me, and Ritual Union seemed like a grab bag of tunes written in a hurry between tours - one critic described it as sounding like a bunch of throwaway B sides.
They return to our shores as part of the lineup at Laneway in January, very excited about that. Wellington gets a sideshow from them as well, lucky bleeders.
Jukebox Mambo 2
Gloriously slinky mambo tunes pulled together by the clever folk at Jazzman Records. Excellent summer record too.
Nick Waterhouse - Holly
I listened to this record a lot this year. It's a swinging slice of old style rockin' R&B from LA cat Nick Waterhouse, and it turned up on AllMusic's Favourite R&B Albums of 2014, alongside our own Electric Wire Hustle, Naomi Shelton, Lee Fields, Sonny Knight, and more.
Funk, soul and afro rarities - an introduction to ATA Records
A ridiculously funky compilation looking back at the output of this Leeds-based label. As the folk at Fleamarket Funk said, "These are 12 songs of heat rocks. There is not one bad tune. If you’re a fan of deep funk and soul, library music, or left field funky cinema sounds then is just up your alley."
Neneh Cherry - Blank Project
Angular, difficult, oddball, and never less than exciting. Produced by Fourtet. Need to go see her when she plays live in NZ early next year, shows in Auckland and Wellington.
Local - Mike Hodgson (ex Pitch Black) dropped a fine, dubby, bubbly, ambient album Tickling the dragon's tail as Misled Convoy (listen on Bandcamp), while his former Pitch Black cohort Paddy Free stepped up in his new role as keyboardist for Moana and The Tribe, handling production duties for their latest album Rima, a great collection of ideas and grooves.
Electric Wire Hustle finally returned with album number two and didn't really connect as strongly as I would have expected. I wanted to like this record a lot more than I did. Did it lack soul?
Mark de Clive Lowe dropped in on his former hometown (Auckland) back in May for a listening session for his latest album Church, pulled together via crowd funding. It's easily the strongest thing he's done in a while. Well worth checking out.
Che Fu didn't drop a new album (STINK ONE!) but did pop up in the mean video for his collaboration with Team Dynamite, which got a wider, official release early in the year, and saw Team Dynamite trek around the country opening for Ladi6 on her hugely successful tour. Che signed up with Dawn Raid earlier in the year, so new material is coming, apparently.
While the Kiwi female singers dept has been dominated by Lorde this year, Ladi6 had a pretty amazing year too. She successfully pulled off her first US tour, after some visa hurdles, which seems standard for any artist trying to tour the US of A. She had that aforementioned local tour, which she said was her biggest ever, and then took off for a trip to revisit Tanzania, with a film crew in tow. Ladi6 and her family lived in that country for a year when she was16. (Watch the trailer here)
She closed the year with taking part in Manawa Ora, as a mentor for troubled youth for Nga Rangatahi Toa, in their performances at the Herald Theatre, which I was lucky enough to see - that was deeply moving. And she also fitted in a trip to play in Brazil. Big year!
On a personal note, I got a huge buzz when my band Hallelujah Picassos dropped our single Salvadore back in July, and got an overwhelmingly positive response from fans, and student radio - we even made it onto the top ten charts of BFM and RDU.
It was our first new recording in 18 years, so I was a bit nervous about how it would be received. There's some more new recordings on the way too.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me this year. Here's to an awesome 2015, full of great music!