REVIEW: Virginia Wing’s “Measures Of Joy”

Virginia Wolf photo VirginiaWing_cover_zps304b708b.jpg Virginia Wing are a trio whose music sounds like an updated continuation of the works of Cocteau Twins or Lush, partly due to
the vocals of Alice Merida Richards but also due to the musicianship of Sebastian Truskolaski and Sam Pillay. Together, Measures Of Joy are the measures of their collective joy, which explores different types of emotions to make their points and be able to explore the world and themselves through their magical journeys. If you simply listen to the music and melodies of Richards’ voice, you will be caught up in the emotions expressed and simply feel it in that context alone. However, listen to the lyrics and you’ll be taken in places you may not have expected before. Listen to it again and you may find yourself elsewhere with each listen. What I also like is that the songs are adventurous, not only on an individual basis but as a collective so that one song will not sound like a continuous tapestry. The textures are heard and felt, which may make you want to put this on repeat in an awake state as well as in a dream. Wonderful album.

REVIEW: Powell’s “11-14″

Powell photo Powell_cover_zps2fb2c3ee.jpg Powell has been making music for about five years, including a small amount of EP’s and singles but for those who haven’t been able to check them out, 11-14 (Diagonal) is the best place to begin. The album is a compilation of 18 songs, running at 92 minutes, where new fans are able to discover his fascinating electronic music sounds like compositions in the making, but there aren’t spots where any of the perceived gaps sound wasteful. There are portions of these songs where he gets into a bit of a minimalistic approach due to how he gets into moments of repetition but it becomes passionate drones that are easy to get caught up before you realize you too are a part of his music. You’ll want to hear more projects from him in the future, and then imagine hearing him in any project to your liking. I’d love to be able to see/hear where he goes with this.

REVIEW: Joe Morris Quartet’s “Balance”

Joe Morris Quartet photo JoeMorris_cover_zpscd06d6f6.jpg Balance (Clean Feed) begins in a very free form manner, where all of the musicians in the Joe Morris Quartet play in a scattered manner, unsure of where to go but knowing that they’re going is part of the adventure. Eventually, they all get into a slightly polished manner but Balance is not an album for those who are solely into proper jazz, or at least jazz within some sense of structure. The music here has structure but it takes a number fo songs to get to proper form, if there is form and if it is proper. If you know of the musicians, you know about their capabilities, and each of them go under and over them in every second of each song.

REVIEW: Various Artists’ “All Your Friend’s Friends”

 photo AYFFK_cover_zps9d9f95e2.jpg While All Your Friend’s Friends (K) has been promoted as a glimpse of Olympia, Washington’s hip-hop scene, there is much more than just hip-hop. While the hip-hop side ranges from nice and dope to some of the best nerdcore rhymes around, the other styles on here range from nice pop to some surprising soulful tunes, and I say it’s surprising only because I didn’t expect it. The artists range from Barfly to Free Whiskey, XPerience to Saints Of Everyday Failures, and a diverse range of people like Zikki Carr, Jesus Chris, Gold, Smoke, The Chicharones, Candidt, and Miz among many others. If there’s one name that some may be familiar with, it would be Onry Ozzborn, the Seattle MC who has years of experience behind him so by getting involved with the OlyWa group, perhaps it will be a chance for all (and I do mean all) of these artists to shine in their own right. If the idea of hip-hop from Olympia may sound peculiar, remember the first time you heard music from the city and eventually got into it for its full, unique beauty. Think of that with this hip-hop comp, which is very much more than hip-hop, which is not a guise to cover up any insecurities about what they create.

(All Your Friend’s Friends can be ordered from Amazon below or directly from K Records.)

REVIEW: Salem’s Lot’s “…Lurar Ut Dig På Prärien”

 photo SalemsLot_cover_zps539d8a65.jpg Salem’s Lot are the kind of band that like to take things slow and easy, ease up to where they have to go and should go, then play slower. Their album …Lurar Ut Dig På Prärien (Easy Rider) is what used to be called a “back of the counter” album, or the type of music you used to have to either look for because it was either hidden or not available in the regular part of the store, it is too unique and special so you had to ask for it. These guys are like a mixture of Black Sabbath, The Stooges, and some Italian prog rock band that love acid more than hashish. There are only three songs on this album, the longest (“Creep Purple”) running at close to 15 minutes while the other two play around the nine minute mark, so if you were to write these tunes as pop songs, they might last for two minutes and fifty seconds. With Salem’s Lot, you’re going to go the long and great way, and they do it with nice arrangements and adjustments throughout.

REVIEW: David Bronson’s “Questions”

This is yet another album that has a very nice and wholesome rock/pop feel, and I hope this silent movement will continue to happen. I’ve been a fan of David Bronson for a short time but I have enjoyed his music quite a bit and in Questions (Big Arc) he is continuing on his music to make passionate songs that sound like something you want to remember and even turn into personal scriptures. This time around, Bronson sounds a lot like Jim Messina. In fact, listen to the Messina songs on albums by Loggins & Messina or Poco and you will hear the sensibilities I’m hearing here, where the lyrics have a lot to say or you’re wanting to appreciate what Bronson went through in order to write music like this. The nice addition of guitarist Carlos Alomar, wife Robin Clark and their daughter, Lea-Lorien Alomar is more than welcome and compliments Bronson’s voice and playing, and hopefully they will bring more people into this collection of songs that, in a better world, would be considered for the album of the year. Allow it to be one of your personal favorites of 2015, as it is mine.

(Questions will be released on January 13th.)

ThisIsBooksMusic.com presents the Best Albums Of 2014

(NOTE: If you missed it, you may also look at a list of what I feel are the Best Music Videos Of 2014.)

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After a year of incredibly solid music, we are now at the point where I’m able to list what I feel are the Best Albums Of 2014. After I compile a list at the end of year, I wonder if the following year can get better. That’s my way of hoping there will be better but do I want an actual “better”? No, I simply hope that the music of the future will be as solid, powerful, and moving as it was that I listened to. There are countless articles about the demise of the music industry, how modern pop music is killing the true spirit of great music but while what passes as American pop may be a bit iffy to my ears, have you heard what is coming from England or Australia as of late? Much of the music released there may not get as much attention or publicity as One Direction but they are not in shortage of the goods.

Hip-hop is in a decline? Again? The media has been saying that for over 25 years, as if Run-DMC was the beginning and end of what makes the music so good. If Run-DMC weren’t on the cover of Rolling Stone, it’s not worth your time, remember those days? Maybe major labels are, in the words of Frank Zappa, only in it for the money but when has that been any different? Regardless of the budget, good music is still being made. We are all on the internet (unless someone printed this article at Kinko’s and you’re reading it at a dorm and if so, thank you), you’ve come to my website and decided to read this article. You made a decision to do so, which means you’re also able to find something to like. The choices are overwhelming but you can listen, pick and choose. The internet is the greatest “listening booth” in the world, there is absolutely no reason for you to not find something.

There’s not enough of certain genres on my list, including country. Yes, there was a time when I didn’t like country but in time I had a change of heart, listened to it with an open mind and ears and I now salute the temple of Buck Owens. I enjoy hearing people like Jennifer Nettles or Little Big Town but it’s not something I actively listen to, so perhaps I need to in the new year. There could be some country-tinged songs within this list but for the most part, no country albums found within, apologies.

As much as I do love music, I don’t want people to think that I am making an attempt to fit in anything and everything. As I have said for years, diversity is the key and that’s part of my norm, I don’t know any other day. If I want to listen to some disgusting death metal and bow down to Lord Satana at the end, I will. If I find something with some rich gospel, I’m here. Do I want to hear some punk or hardcore that will make me wear weird T-shirts and slam into a pit at Wal-Mart? Sure, why not. My point is, there’s enough music available and these are albums that I enjoyed a lot. Please keep in mind that I’m sure I may have missed a few albums along the way. I did not and can’t listen to every album released in 2014, no one has the time. The list is very much a representation of my likes and interests. You are able to click on the title to get to my review for each one posted throughout the year. Something makes you curious? Click a link and find out more.

Now let’s get to the list.

Analog – “Arrow Of God”
As We Draw – “Mirages”
Brownstudy – “Life Well Lived”
Casual Strangers – s/t
Clipping. – “CLPPNG”
Colleens – “Wild Dreams”
Constant Lovers – “Experience Feelings”
Deadkill – “No, Never!”
Diamond District – “March On Washington”
Direct Effect – “Sunburn”
DJ Q-Bert – “GalaXXXian”
Eyehategod – s/t
Jessie Frye – “Obsidian”
The Ghost Wolves – “Man, Woman, Beast”
Goatwhore – “Constricting Rage Of The Merciless”
Golden Donna – “II”
Hoax Hunters – “Comfort & Safety”
Hot Victory – s/t
Ibrahim Electric – “Rumors From Outer Space”
Andrew Judah – “Monster”
Jeff & Susanne Kelly – “By Reckless Moonlight”
King Buzzo – “This Machine Kills Artists”
Low Leaf – “AKASHAALAY”
Mårble – “Two Women & Tiger”
Pete Marriott-#REALHIPHOP
Gigi Masin – “Talk To The Sea”
Megafauna – “Maximalist”
Melvins – “Hold It In”
Mimicking Birds – “Eons”
Hedvig Mollestad Trio – “Enfant Terrible”
OOIOO – “Gamel”
Oscillator Bug – “Bursts Of The Million”
The Roots – “…and then you shoot your cousin”
Sizzla – “Radical”
Sleepmakeswaves – “Love Of Cartography”
Two Knights – “Shut Up”
Jess Williamson – “Native State”


By the 4th quarter of the year (October/November/December), I had a sense of what albums would be at the top of the list. After years of putting together “Best Of” wrap-ups, I realized that there shouldn’t be an absolute top pick. Then as I’m doing the write-up, I think “eh, this will be my absolute favorite.” This year was a rough one because the Top 3 I had was going with me to the finish line. It then lead to an absolute Top 2, and those top 2 choices were hard to decide on.

Then D’Angelo surprised everyone by releasing his long awaited third album. This was the week Nicki Minaj is supposed to release something new, this was her time in the spotlight but Michael Archer stole the shine without even trying. Then again, it had taken 15 years of trying, struggling, writing, recording, and approving an album many fans have been waiting for. I’m someone who likes to do these “Best Of” lists in the second half of December so in case someone throws out a surprise, I would be ready. Fortunately, I was ready. A look at my absolute Top 4 albums of 2014.

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  • After being introduced to her by a friend, I couldn’t get enough of the music of Low Leaf. I can say everything from how she is “spiritual” and “magical” but she comes off as someone who knows how to create, loves what and how to play and isn’t afraid of how to express herself. I feel that. A part of me also feels there is a, dare I say it, sisterly groove to it, one that I can sense but don’t particularly know in full, and don’t want to. She did an interview where she said people used to think she was Hawaiian, and as a Hawaiian I can completely understand that. As someone who is Filipino as well, the music sounds comfortable. It sounds like music to share with people but also a private music where you’re in a room with nothing but a keyboard or (in her case) a harp and communicating with the sound and yourself. Low Leaf sounds like a search for freedom, or knowing and understanding that freedom can be obtained in whatever manner you want, regardless of public “standards”.
  • The moment I heard clipping. were signed to Sub Pop Records, I couldn’t believe it. Sub Pop is just down the I-90 highway away from me, 200 miles, four hours, Sub Pop was once the label that anyone within the Pacific Northwest wanted to be on, work at, or simply see. I once visited the Sub Pop offices in 1991 or 1992, where I saw The Fastbacks’ Kim Warnick at the front desk and the guys in Seaweed working around. I had been there to talk with publicist Jennie Boddy, who requested a bribe as the only thing it would take for me to talk with her. I went to Uwajimaya and bought a box of Hawaiian Host chocolate covered macadamia nuts and went to First Avenue, only to discover that Boddy was allegedly not there. Did she miss my appointment on purpose or did she think I bought something other than candy? I’ll never know but what I did see was a great record label where the front office was a mess, complete with an old Bruce Lee movie poster from Asia (Vietnam?) made on canvas. At the time, grunge rock was at an all time high not only at the label but throughout Seattle. Hip-hop was perhaps the last thing you’d ever hear on Sub Pop but in time the label would change and develop, not unlike Bruce Pavitt’s own Sub Pop fanzine and column that he printed himself and eventually got in each issue of The Rocket, a Seattle magazine I eventually wrote for in 1991. Sub Pop began to have artists no one would ever think would have a release from but in time they signed clipping., whose album I had really liked last year, turned it into my favorite of 2013. Could the group equal it? At first I thought “wow, there is a different approach to what they’re doing” but as I listened to it more, the shifts were deliberate. Short version: I ended up loving it.
  • In the late afternoon on Sunday, December 14th, I began posting my first reaction to D’Angelo’s Black Messiah. I wanted to hear it, I had waited like everyone else but the listening experience was far beyond what I expected. The album was very much in the vein of Voodoo but it wasn’t a Voodoo copy-cat album. I began hearing a sense of longing and hope, a spiritual side that has always been a part of his music but also a plea, a need for something that is discussed but never expressed directly. It wasn’t an “I need you, you need me” tale, but it was something that was created to show why people have been waiting, why people were patience for something new, and why he loves to sing, play, and write in the first place. The music was also a reflection of his influences and what I was sensing was not only the spirit of 1974, but almost asking indirectly for people to return to the innocence of 1974, perhaps not as an adult but maybe 2 year old Michael Archer being in his living room, watching cartoons or hearing his parents records and feeling everything that made him want to become an artist. Maybe it’s impossible to go back to that time of innocence but we can remember what that felt like and keep it going. There’s a reason people are fond of that music, because it captures a time and place. If it was the concept of “neo soul” that made the media in 1995 embrace him, he was going to do it again but take it back even further. It sounded not just like the old records underneath the phonograph, it’s that jam session you heard your parents playing in the living room or at a party, where you’re young and can’t believe the clock says 3:37am but it sounds good and want to hear it, even if you end up only hearing a few minutes. It’s a celebration of the music, the feeling, the warmth, the vibe, and the people who created the music and why they do it. “There was a time when there was no need to make divisions but now there are, let’s find the reason for it/us to get back together” seems to be part of the desire heard.
  • What I liked about The Roots’ …and then you shoot your cousin was not only the music and how it was put together, but how the reaction to it was immediately mixed. Some liked it while others were confused as to what they were saying, as if it was a De La Soul interlude put into 2014 mode. Everything from “I don’t get it” to “this is confusing” or “how come Black Thought doesn’t get enough recognition, isn’t he the main voice of The Roots?” but as someone who has been a fan of The Roots for 20 years, when have the groove ever remained normal? When have they followed a trend and stayed there? Sure, it may have been easier for them to go down a certain route and bring in the hits and royalty checks, who wouldn’t want that? There is no law to say an artist needs to do this or that, which is why they are bold enough to stick with “other”. Plus, in the last twenty years, hip-hop albums have grown from a nice cassette length (50 to 55 minutes) to CD length (74-80 minutes) and double CD’s (120-160 minutes). No one needs an album with five hits and 42 interludes. The Roots did very well and as long as the group continues to make new music, they’re in a very good place, figuratively and literally.

    If I had to pick an absolute Top 3, it would be between Low Leaf, The Roots, and clipping. If I had to go down to an absolute Top 2, then it’s between D’Angelo and clipping. Even as I write this, it is a struggle to pick my absolute Best Album Of 2014 because why should I settle with just one? Why not the two, three, or four? Hell, if I were to make a Top 5, then I would have to include Enfant Terrible by the Hedvig Mollestad Trio. I could spend a paragraph or two debating other albums I would’ve placed here. Rather than pick an absolute top, let me tell you what I had intended in making my choice as the Best Album of 2014.

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    I love it when hip-hop is direct, I still love when hip-hop conveys a message, I don’t want to listen to something that is a waste of my time and energy. I also love it when someone “ruins” the concept of what hip-hop is supposed to be and with their love of adding in noise, experimental textures, and chaos in their music, I love clipping. because what they’re doing is not what is today’s hip-hop standard. What I hear is what the Jungle Brothers did in 1993, what Divine Styler did in 1992, and maybe what Hawd Gankstuh Rappuhs Emsees Wid Ghatz did in 2001. Hip-hop is meant to be a direct message and what clipping. did is take a few pages, burn it, and throw the ashes into your eyes. It’s the same hip-hop but done in a slightly different outfit. That is why I loved the album, and that is why I had made it my favorite of the year.

    However, four albums are high on the list, I may turn around tomorrow and say “do you know what I now feel about Low Leaf?” I will leave it at that. All of the albums released this year were incredible and I am certain this will continue in the new year that will be 2015. Show support by buying their albums, going to their shows, or signing up to their mailing lists, Facebook pages or follow them on Twitter.

  • REVIEW: Oswald’s “Ride” (EP)

     photo Oswald_cover_zpsd8d655ee.jpg Upon first listen, the rapping style of Oswald reminded me a lot of Fort Minor’s Mike Shinoda, and I mean more on the Fort Minor side and not so much what he’s known for in Linkin Park, despite being the exact same person. The Ride EP has music that has a slight futuristic feel, or that it may sound like the kind of music influenced by a good share of sci-fi motion pictures. The song I found a liking to the most was the closing track, “Alive”, for the synths are reminiscent of a classic groove. “Figure You Out” is nothing more than a rapper doing his thing over an acoustic guitar but the arrangement sounds very pop/punk, so if someone covered this song, it might sound really good. “Kid” and “Sea Full Of Sharks” both share background vocals from a lady and it may help bring in more listeners to what Oswald is about but I think he stands out on his own without the aid of need. The background vocals are just an added ingredient and I hope he’ll continue to do more EP’s in the years to come.

    REVIEW: Arabrot’s “I Modi” (EP)

     photo Arabrot_cover_zpsf1486510.jpg The music of Arabrot’s I Modi EP (Fysisk Format) sounds protein enriched, and that because the gaping qualities are muscular, think, and strong. It pulls from different influences so immediately I may have heard things I’ve heard before done by Marilyn Manson and White Zombie, but then it even goes back to the Alice Cooper Band’s first few albums where things may not match together at first, but it doesn’t have to. The swagger comes through in the way the attitude is given and shared, which means Arabrot offer a character into their sounds that I approve up, a willingness to open but remain controlled for the sake of being/maintaining the/that character.


    REVIEW: Sizzla’s “Born A King”

    Sizzla photo SizzlaBAK_cover_zpsf32d2b3b.jpg Considering how much music Sizzla Kalonji has recorded and released in the last 15 years, it almost doesn’t matter what he does but Sizzla finds himself in a very good place with the release of Born A King (Muti Music). He knows how to balance the romantic songs along with songs that may require a political or social stance, and he never reaches the level of being slack the way he used to. This means it’s family friendly music, good enough for those who care when he speaks out but pleases those who enjoy it when Sizzla is a gentlemen, perhaps why he calls himself a king for this effort. “Give Jah Praise” will definitely make people happy who enjoy it when he gets into a deep roots vibe. What people will also find a joy is hearing two acoustic versions of songs that have fuller versions earlier in the album, for “I’m Living” and “Got What It Takes”. He continues to go through his different methods of singing, including brief excursions into Auto-Tune but they’re not as heavy as they were about eight to ten years ago. How Sizzla will mature in the coming years is unknown but as long as there are fans showing him support, he is sure to continue his passion for many years. Perhaps seven new albums by this time next year? We’ll see.