Music - 2014 in review

Music is a large part of my life.  Whether listening to it or playing it, I get a lot of relaxation and enjoyment out of it.  It's always been that way since I tuned into music when I was about 13 years old.  Duran Duran hold the medal for being "that band" for me, and although my musical tastes broadened widely in later years they will always hold a place in my heart.  Oh the years I spent wishing I was Simon Le Bon......

I was thinking last night how every year I discover new music and reconnect with songs and how it's always good to spread the word about great music you have found.  Some of these new discoveries have been around for years, and I am almost embarrassed to say I have not tuned into them before, but whether new or old, here is my list of music you should checkout from my 2014.

Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked for the Holidays - I know it probably feels a bit much to be contemplating a Christmas Album in January, but at some point in time you should give this a listen.  Save it for your 2015 Christmas experience if you cannot face it before. The Barenakeds' bring a great air to some very well known and traditional Christmas music.  I love the way they mix tempos and genres and that is sometimes in the same song.  The Barenaked Ladies are also a group who I have never really listened to and I am a bit embarrassed about that.  They are right in my musical sweet spot, so I keep asking myself how I could have ignored them for 20 years!!!

Johnny Cash - Bitter Tears: Johnny Cash Sings Ballads of the American Indian - So this is an oldie which I only listened to this year.  I'm a Cash fan but his catalogue of music is so vast it I am still discovering the true extent of his legacy.  This album is a treat if you love Cash and his style but it's also pretty amazing that in 1964 he was making an album dedicated to the rights of native Americans.  Incidentally an album has recently been published which celebrates 50 years of this album and contains the original Cash material as well as covers but contemporary country artists.  If you like this, also check out 1968's The Holy Land.  It's a weird mix that can only come from the U.S. brand of Christianity.

Recoil - various songs from the back catalogue - Recoil is a band I should be listening too.  Recoil is the musical creative outlet of Alan Wilder who was one of the members of Depeche Mode until 1995.  Depeche Mode are one of my 'go to bands'. Recoil is in its essence an ongoing collaborative project where Alan samples and works with musicians around the world to produce what I find are very interesting songs.  I am often hear a combination of Depeche Mode and Fat Boy Slim.

Lily Allen - Shezzus - I have a real weakness for Lily.   There is something about her voice, pop sensibilities and attitude which works for me.  I have listened to Shezzus many times and I continue to love it.  The title track Shezzus is a standout track for me.   Hilarious lyrics at times and actually a nice comment on the 'competitive nature' of the pop divas.  I also love Lily when she does a ballad and her treatment of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know is simply beautiful.

Prince - Art Official Age - Prince is back and with what I think is a welcome return to form.  In true Prince style he released two different albums which have different musical leanings.  Art Official Age, is for me the better of the two albums (both are good).  I wouldn't say Prince has produced anything new in particular with this album, but what he has done is prove he can still do what he does very well, which is a grand mix of funk, pop and rock.  If you like Prince, you should hear this.  If you don't really know him, this is a good place to start.

Zaz - Zaz - A friend who I made this year introduced me to Zaz.  Even more spectacularly they introduced me to her while I was in France. I can't actually think of a better place to discover a French singer.  Zaz's music is a lovely mix of jazz and traditional French sounds.  There is nothing more pleasant to listen to on a Sunday afternoon, or indeed when sitting drinking red wine in France!

Peter and the Mountain - You Are a Bear, Take What's Yours - Describing themselves as atmospheric fuzzy folk, Peter and the Mountain create peaceful lovely songs which remind me of some of the music my pen-friend in England and I would exchange via tape in the mid 80's.  I find this very English.

Valerie June - Pushin' Against A Stone - This is good modern country.  Valerie June presents an interesting collection of country inspired "organic moonshine roots music".  Valerie is from Tennessee and you can hear it.  Delightful bluegrass permeates through sounds which are both the traditional deep south and contemporary America.