Michael Tedesco: My Top Albums Of 2014< < Back to
This is the ninth in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors. Check out all of this year’s lists at this link.
Every so often throughout its brief existence, rock is pronounced over and done with by a handful of very knowledgeable artists, critics or record execs that, by now, ought to know better.
The Who sang “rock is dead” way back in 1973, and earlier this year, Gene Simmons of Kiss made a similar declaration – missing entirely the irony of his own contribution to hastening its alleged demise.
Country and rap may rule the sales charts, but with the assistance of those on this list, rock won’t be going away anytime soon.
Album of the Year: St. Vincent, St. Vincent
Annie Clark’s fourth solo effort, St. Vincent, is all the evidence required that the above predictions are way off. There are elements of synth-pop, hard rock, dance-pop, hip-hop, prog, art-rock, majestic ballads and more, all freshly synthesized into an album of total originality alongside the best works of David Bowie or Kate Bush.
This is a disc that defies whichever sub-genre one attempts to tack on (she has a Grammy nomination in the “Alternative” category, but they haven’t invented one that matches this record). Each song would stand on its own as a single, highlighting St. Vincent’s artistry as both composer and guitarist, yet they are part of a cohesive whole.
To analyze it further feels a bit like pulling apart the wings of a butterfly, missing the point entirely. This LP is the culmination of Annie’s years of creative endeavoring, from Berklee and her early bands to collaborations with Andrew Bird, Sufjan Stevens, David Byrne and others.
Fearless prediction: 25-30 years from now, St. Vincent’s S/T will be spoken about with the same regard currently held for Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, the first Pretenders album or Blondie’s Parallel Lines. Like those records, it is an embarrassment of riches, a masterpiece from an artist just beginning to hit her stride.
Rising Star New Release: Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons, Hey Kid
The Columbus-based Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons have been performing throughout the Midwest, on radio shows and releasing discs since 2009. From the explosive, hard-rock edged “Hurricane” to their lilting, countrified “Howlin’ At the Moon” namesake, even iTunes has difficulty pining them down, referring to them simultaneously as country, folk, pop or alternative.
The confusion is theirs alone. With Hey Kid, their first full-length release, AP & THM showcase their expertise in each of those genres and then some. Most often described (and winning awards) as “Americana” or “roots,” Hey Kid has just as much in common with Neil Young and Crazy Horse or Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac as it does with Lucinda Williams and Wanda Jackson.
Accompanying Angela’s beautiful, plaintive vocals and heartfelt lyrics, guitarist Chris Connor plays like a Nashville cat who was spoon-fed R&B in the cradle, channeling the blues and country like Eric Clapton meets Lindsey Buckingham. He, bassist Billy Zehnal, and drummer Jeff Martin are never overbearing, always tasteful and appropriately matched to every nuance of a song’s personality.
This is a band that understands the value of dynamics and honing your craft before a live audience, but most of all, the transformative power of the song. With “Athens,” Angela captures both the charm and the heartbreak of her alma mater’s locale with stunning emotional intensity.
Those lucky enough to catch Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons performing live never come away disappointed. Go now.
Best News of the Year: Kate Bush and King Crimson return to live performance
That, and St. Vincent being announced as a 2015 Nelsonville Music Festival headliner.
Most Unlikely event of the Year: Prince releases two superb studio albums simultaneously
On Warner Brothers! I can’t believe I just typed that.
Best Radio Show: Out of the Afternoon with Art Cromwell
WOUB’s own Art Cromwell is a veteran radio and television producer whose radio show is without peer–a comprehensive and entertaining journey through the jazz universe from New York, Chicago and New Orleans to the European capitals.
Art covers it all: Satchmo to Sun Ra, traditional, swing, be-bop, cool or outside. Duke, Ella, Miles, Bird, Monk and ‘Trane are of course represented, but so are their less well-known but no-less influential sidemen and women. Do not miss it–airing alternate Saturdays on Radio Free Athens (1340 AM in Athens or stream live at www.woub.org/listen).
Worst idea of 2014: “Pink Floyd,” The Endless River
Touted as both a swan song for the band and a tribute to late keyboardist Richard Wright, the final official release from the two remaining members of Pink Floyd is a pastiche of 20-year-old jam sessions and banal lyrics, employing multiple session players and producers, landing somewhere between sad or embarrassing to a cynical cash-grab utilizing the purchasing power of the brand-name.
This LP does not honor Wright and Floyd’s legacy; it tarnishes it. Or perhaps I simply need to move to Colorado to enjoy it.
In addition to stints as a guitar technician, tour manager, concert promoter and independent record label director in the 1990s, Michael Tedesco has performed in the U.S. and Europe as a guitarist with Trap Door and Robert Fripp & the League/Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists. When he’s not hosting Radio Free Athens on WOUB 1340 AM, he works at Ohio University as an IT support specialist for the Dean’s Office in the College of Arts and Sciences.