On his haunting and elegiac Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens repeats the phrase ‘We’re all gonna die’ in the devastating song “Fourth of July” at the middle of the album. I couldn’t stop listening to this record or escape its truism. The past year was bookended by friends dying of cancer at its beginning and David Bowie succumbing at its end. Violence and chaos seemed to explode worldwide. At times I felt like I was in the eye of a hurricane, watching the beauty and destruction of life spinning around me in slow-motion.
What can I do? Like Lennon sang, I don’t believe in Jesus, but like Tweedy sang, music is my savior. I need it like I need sleep. It’s my shelter from the storm. Here were the records last year that aimed straight for my heart, somehow reconciling joy and sadness.
Though layered in fuzz, echo and studio gloss, Low weave some of their loveliest melodic lines with Mimi’s voice – Low’s nonpareil instrument – soaring above it all like a falcon on a current. I vividly remember seeing them nearly 20 years ago (jesus, i’m old) in a small college cafe and the feeling of being knocked into bliss. It’s amazing to hear Alan and Mimi stretch creatively while still killing us softly.
In spite of the extreme pressures to follow up a masterpiece, D’Angelo surprised us 14 years later with the smoldering Black Messiah, which swaggers with a disarming nonchalance, like the microphone was brought from room to room in a house party featuring the Roots. A 21st century R&B Music From Big Pink.
bjork – vulnicura
panda bear – meets the grim reaper
calexico – edge of the sun
wilco – star wars
sleater-kinney – no cities to love
mantles – all odds end
kendrick lamar – to pimp a butterfly
joanna newsom – divers
godspeed you black emperor – asunder sweet and other distress
blur – the magic whip
jessica pratt – on your own love again
julia holter – have you in my wilderness
deerhunter – fading frontier
twerps – range anxiety
houndstooth – no news from home
surf city – jekyll island
van hunt – the fun rises, the fun sets
mac demarco – another one