Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

My top 15 albums of 2014

06:57am 24 Dec 2014


Following on from yesterday's long (long) list here are the Top 15 albums of 2014 - my favourites, the albums that I've raved about - and then returned to. These weren't just written up and then I moved on. I kept coming back to these albums - or found it hard to move on from them in any way. These are the albums that moved me and moved with me - the meant the most to me, that racked up the most listens. And yes, in case there was any confusion, these were not mentioned in the long list. (Click on the links to read my full review of each album).Best of 2014

1. Neneh Cherry, Blank Project: A strange and wonderful record - "comeback" of the year, the first surprise of 2014. And a record that I'm still regularly spinning. My 3-year-old son is hooked on it too.

2. The War On Drugs, Lost In The Dream: I might never have believed, if told first, that an album that sounds like Don Henley and Chris Rea and Lindsey Buckingham would be one of my favourites of the year (with only the Buckingham as any real kind of saving grace). But that liquid-ambient guitar tone and those nearly-1980s song ideas married up well. And this is an album I keep rediscovering. One of the first that I fell in love with in 2014 and one of the first I'll be cuing up heading into 2015.

3. Dan Weiss, Fourteen: I like to try to call it early - and nothing wowed me, musically, quite like this album. A truly genre-less music experience, the players might come from jazz but they're taking the music somewhere else. The playing on this album and the vision of Weiss, nothing was better than this.

4. Sun Kil Moon, Benji: I already mentioned The Year of The Koz, big year for Mr Kozelek. This album was an audacious effort, the best lyrics of 2014 - the wordiest offering too I'd wager. And something deep and stirring, emotionally, about these songs. And inside these songs. The best thing Kozelek has done.

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Best albums of 2014 - The Long List

09:30am 23 Dec 2014


I've said, so many times this year, that there are far too many great albums. People talk about the death of the album, a death that's been greatly exaggerated. I've reviewed hundreds of great brand new albums and EPs and several wonderful reissues too. Actually hundreds. On average, each month, I've had nice things to say about 30-40 different albums. Long List

I've put together digests for the months of January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November. Early next year, I'll do the same for December - but you can click on those links there to be taken to each month's list of rave reviews. And within each digest you can click to find and read the full review for up to as many as 60 albums. I think 60 was the highest number for one month - so that's two great albums a day. And I've missed out some of the amazing albums still; I'm constantly trying to catch up.
December's best album reviews (so far) are here below.

Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer, Bass & Mandolin: as it says on the box - just two musicians and their respective instruments, a range of folk and country motifs and some stunning playing.

Mark Kozelek, Sings Christmas Carols: I've already mentioned this as part of the Year of the Koz - so whether some sick, smart-ass folly or a sincere gesture it's one of the best Christmas albums from recent times. It works. It really does.

YACHT, Where Does This Disco? (ep): A kick-ass return from YACHT.

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2014's best story: my band of the year

08:57am 22 Dec 2014


I saw Jakob play on Saturday night. It's the best thing about being in Hawke's Bay - the chance to see one of the best bands in the world (in a great venue). Up close.

Jakob's new album, Sines is one of my favourite albums of 2014. It'll be one of my favourite albums to listen to across the many years to come. And, yes, part of the appeal is knowing the story behind the music, the amount of blood, sweat and tears involved in the making of the record.

I've given Jakob enough plugs this year - previewing the album, reviewing the album, raving from the rafters. Jakob

But there's something so special about this band - about the commitment to the cause, the way the three musicians are all crucial to the sound, all so focussed too when they play. You could not remove one of the individual elements of this group and have it sound like Jakob. You can't imagine the sound of Jakob without those drums, that bass, the signature guitar build and crunch.

That they're not trying to be rock stars, that they're family men with jobs outside of the band also appeals to me. People making music for the right reason.

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Guest Blog: Bore the world

07:33pm 18 Dec 2014


We were sorta talking about how someone should look at just how bad the new version of Do They Know It's Christmas? is - on the back of yesterday's post. And then Andrew Paul Wood stepped up and offered to write that very post. And so here it is. That very post. Right here. Now. My thanks to him for a day off  as such. My best of the year list/s coming next week. Now it's over to Andrew...

It's the time of year that Bob Geldof trots out the one dire song that anybody under the age of 40 remembers him for, that Live Aid dreck Do They Know It's Christmas with its condescending colonial-occidental worldview and patronisingly stereotypical and inaccurate descriptions of Africa. Admittedly back in 1985 we were a bit more naïve and the Global Village was barely a twinkle in Marshall McLuhan's eye. Back then it was to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia (or, if you prefer, to buy ivory back scratchers for kleptocrats), but now that we can google Africa, the 40th incarnation of the song (back, as it is, like gastric reflux or Freddie Kruger) has been tweaked to raise money for Ebola in West Africa. Keeping in mind that even the Police Academy movies gave up with number seven, how does it stack up today?

[One Direction]
It's Christmas time there's no need to be afraid

I don't know about you but the thought of shopping malls filled with hopped-up children and endless repeats of "Snoopy's [effin] Christmas" fills me with the chill of existential dread. This terror is multiplied by several orders of magnitude by the words "one" and "direction" in close proximity, not least of all because it sounds like a Soviet era slogan one might be sent to the gulag for questioning.

[Ed Sheeran]
At Christmas time we let in light and we banish shade

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The biggest jerk in music for 2014

06:29am 18 Dec 2014


While news and social media platforms - including right here at this website - did their best to take you as up close as possible to "the action" on Monday when a crazed gunman took a bunch of innocent people hostage in a Sydney café - resulting, after an hours-long stand-off in the deaths of two Australians who just got up and went to work that day as required - and John Key was typically deplorable in using the news, the very next day, to sell his version of protection (under a portfolio of paranoia and control) I think the single worst thing I've seen and heard since is the news (and, er, proof) that this chump made a song

I had never heard of former Australian Idol winner, Wes Carr, and wish that was still the case. And while at least one of you reading is getting ready to tell me that I'm helping him out by sharing his name and his song and the story around it I'm only doing so because I want to name and shame this guy as music's biggest jerk in 2014. Wes Carr

Obviously the competition includes U2 releasing their new album as malware and Kanye West breathing. Obviously the competition also includes Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner for allowing his publication to crown the aforementioned U2 album as 2014's best record. And to apparently be serious.

But this Wes Carr guy takes the trophy.

The song, for a start, is awful. It can barely stand up for seeming too close to those "go and get the guitar" parody moments from shows like The Office, or that classic episode of The Simpsons that so accurately lampooned this sick phenomenon when they had Sting sending all his love down the well.

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