Best Albums of 2014

If there’s one common thread among the 20 albums to make my list this year, it’s eclecticism. The emergence of services like Spotify and even YouTube not only make finding a wider gamut of music possible, it also undoubtedly influences those who make the music. Not only do the artists represented here exemplify a wider spectrum of genre than I’ve ever had before, the albums themselves often integrate several styles within their own confines.   In a true testament to the quality of music I discovered this year, this was probably the most difficult year-end ranking I’ve ever had to form, and the gap from top to bottom is probably narrower than any I can remember. I can’t claim to have listened to all of the musics, but I have expanded my field from years past because there was just so much good music out there this year. For your enjoyment:   20) Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 – Well regarded as solo artists, the styles of Killer Mike and El-P complement each other nicely, and they creatively mix their roles by trading both verses and lines. El-P’s production is also solid, and he adds subtle unexpected twists more »

It’s True That We Love One Another: Gender Roles in the Music of Jack White

To say that Jack White has a complicated history with women would be a bit of an understatement. Many of his songs reflect on relationships with women. Several warn of the dangers of redheaded temptresses, and few have fairytale endings. He has survived two divorces, one of which was to a woman he led people to believe was his sister. Yet he frequently collaborates with women, and his most successful musical venture (The White Stripes) consisted solely of himself and his aforementioned sister/ex-wife, Meg White. If any music were ripe for comparison to an understanding of the nature of masculinity/femininity, this would be it. ***Masculinity/Femininity in Musicology*** Frankly, most attempts to analyze music through the guise of feminist criticism seem misguided and uninformative. The process of arbitrarily describing certain traits of music as masculine or feminine is archaic and counterproductive towards better understanding music, yet it is not as outdated as one might think. In his 1989 article “Dangerous Liaisons: The Literary Text in Musical Criticism,” noted musicologist Lawrence Kramer described aspects of musical uncertainty as “weakness characteristic of women’s thinking.” The 4th edition of the Harvard Dictionary of Music (copyright 2003) uses the terms “masculine” and “feminine” regarding cadences more »

Best Albums of 2012

As has been the case in recent years, there was a lot of fine music being made in 2012.  New technologies have not only changed the accessibility of music, they also seem to have inspired a venerable geyser of creativity and experimentation.  Some big names forged exciting new directions for themselves, while others far less heralded blazed trails in uncharted territory.  I hardly consider this list to be absolute, but based on what I heard this year, these are the 15 albums that stood out to me: 15) Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory – In one of the most schizophrenic albums of the year, Cloud Nothings segue from the sprawling gothic instrumental coda of “Wasted Days” to the tight radio-friendly punk jam “Fall In”.  And that’s just the end of the third track.  They pull it off, though, largely because they cultivate the same pleasant angst in their sound in every song. Essential Listening: “Fall In”, “Wasted Days” 14) Beach House, Bloom – In some ways, the name “Beach House” is very fitting for this Baltimore duo.  The guitars often use tinny, chasmy surf-rock timbres, and Victoria Legrand’s haunting vocals sound as if they’re processed through a seashell.  Bloom nestles more »