Editor’s Note: We asked staff writer Jonathan Donaldson to list his favorite records or bands of 2014. He took it a step further, raising the #RIYL game and paving the way for you to discover some of the more slept-on releases and/or artists of the past year, from Boston and beyond…

1. If you like pianos…

Tristan Allen apparently has some history as a teen “Amanda Palmer protégée,” but I have heard him play a couple of times down at the Cambridge YMCA Cheap Seats performance series. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but Allen plays the piano like Sigor Ros singer Jonsi sings. It’s sort of a “whoa, where did that come from” sort of deal. To be a little bit more technical, there are lots of sustain and ripples upon ripples of arpeggios and a lack of formal shape. Very beautiful stuff.


2. If you like charismatic garage…

Secret Lover have the behind-the-music magic. On a lonely night at Zuzu I watched this Central Massachusetts band totally make the mints in the dish pay attention. Lead vocalist Sally Horowitz dances to her own tunes and sings with a prowl of an ‘80s club singer to a backdrop of spot-on late night diner jams. She’s one of these people who is probably a waitress somewhere and will be getting rich someday in our collective dreams. Or is that Chrissy Hynde?


3. If you like giant voices…

Jscott Martin blew my face off at the recent Marvin Gaye “Vulnerable” production at Berklee. Aside from having poise and stage presence and style, this kid can absolutely rip. I don’t watch American Idol, but I imagine he would embarrass everyone on that show. He digs deep into historical r&b without resorting to tricks like melisma. Dig this video of him singing “God Will Make It Work” (just forward a few minutes to get to the stuff).


4. If you like art punk…

Fur Purse is a band that commands attention with lean guitar riffs and drum beats, confrontational singing about what’s for dinner, and other interesting items left in the fridge like caveman organ and sax. The first time I saw them play (recently at Charlie’s Kitchen) singer Eve Belfer-Ahern wore an auto-mechanics sort of jumpsuit. I thought that was pretty cool in the way that a toddler might find another toddler’s big wheel cool.


5. If you like weird pop…

Al Marantz & the Piffs is the most recent band of Al Marantz, who was previously gigging around town with Fume Hood, and before that Future Days. This band is a great natural fit for Marantz’s super to-the-point, oblong, flatly affected pop tunes. Alternating between momentary jazz vibes, a kiss of drone, and some guy/girl beachy bossa-nova-ness, these guys remind me a lot of some of the groovy TeenBeat bands of the early-’00s, like Eggs and a little bit of Unrest. Check out his Soundcloud for free stuff and updates. Watch for a new Marantz tape on OSR this Spring.


6. If you like synths…

World Cup probably put out the best local themed release I heard all year, because it happens to contain lots of the influences that I think most need to be present in all music. I’m talking Stereolab, Shuggie Otis, Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown specials — stuff like that. What you don’t see the connections? Get with it! More keyboard music for you. Here mostly it’s layers of pretty cruddy, but glistening synth tones that sound absolutely fantastic all zapped and overlapped and compressed together in these rocked out instrumentals. Oh, and with twin keyboard attack and bass guitar, they are fantastic live.


7. If you like spaced-out country…

Old Wave is better than Shabba Ranks. I’m telling you. Oh sorry, wrong genre. But seriously, I am going to get out and see this project of JP songwriter Pancho The Kidd any time I have the chance. This is some real “Tonight’s The Night” Neil Young/Dan Hicks-flavored, forlorn ice cream man folk played by these cats (including ace guitarist Scott Mizrachi)—and with such gently perfect touch and feel. I eagerly await their first release, which they have been cooking up with Debo Band’s PJ Goodwin.


8. If you like Italian soundtracks…

Tredici Bacci are insanely off the charts out of everybody’s league, but they don’t mind if you go and see them live. In fact, they might actually like it. I love that these songs (which really do sort of have that Morricone/Argento kind of vibe) are written by Guerilla Toss’ Simon Hanes. The orchestra’s tape sold out (I just had to type, probably the first time such one has ever been written), but you can check them out on line.


9. If you like electronica-ica…

RubyLuna do lots of wonderful things that really defy easy categorization (like most of this stuff), but vocalist/guitarist Angela Schroeder-Dill and electronic percussionist/noise maker Matt Dill really couldn’t do what they do without electricity. Either that or with a whole lot of help from ghosts. That might work. With her voice and songwriting chops, Angela (see also Citrusphere) would do perfectly fine on her own as a folk chanteuse of the traditional order, but her muse here is to use lots of looping and delay to turn herself into sonic canyons. Matt plays the role of the sonic agitator by basically doing what he can with heaps of electronic gear to keep things from getting too smooth.


10. If you like bedroom-fi…

Jesus Vio is sweetness. I really dig his new 3-song collection on Bandcamp, “I Am Alone” which sounds like someone doing as much as they absolutely possibly can to convey some big ideas with the minimal gear that they have. This is the perfect tonic for someone with pro-studio ear fatigue. The big ideas at play are love, living and music, which is enough. Vio plays in Free Pizza and those guys are apparently moving to Florida, so keep your ears peeled for his return visits.


Follow Jonathan Donaldson on Twitter @JR_Donaldson

 

Comments