City Sun Eater in the River of Light
As I watched Woods put on a stellar show at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday night, I had a strange image cross my mind during the performance of one of their latest tracks, “Can’t See It All”. As the song’s brooding bass line slink into my psyche, an image of a snake entered my mind. It seemed like a random vision, and I chuckled to myself at the weird places my brain can take me during a concert. But as I watched the band continue to play a set composed largely of material off of their latest, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, I began to think about how this band has been able to slither its way through the past decade, shedding skin with each album and returning with a fresh new take on psychedelic folk rock.
A few days ago I posted the first 20 in my “Top 40 Albums of 2014” list (check it out here). Below you will find this year’s edition of what I consider the top 20 albums of the year. You’ll find albums from varying genres and possibly a few albums that are new to you. I think it’s important to note what I define as a top caliber album. Great songs are always a plus, but more important to me is the ability of an artist to create a series of songs that tell a story, that convey an overall theme, that complement each other, and that make the listener think differently about the human experience. We are moving into an age where most consumers are more concerned with hit songs, which is why I feel compelled to highlight those musicians that have stayed honest to the age-old art of The Album and created something that’s about the whole and not a couple catchy songs.
While reading No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan several months ago, the fact that Bob Dylan grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota struck a nerve with me. Not that I didn’t already know Robert Zimmerman’s hometown; what caught me off guard was the way author Robert Shelton described Dylan’s disdain for small town life. Being a fellow small town Midwest boy who couldn’t wait to escape, I felt a spiritual connection to Bob, like maybe that internal yearning for bigger things is what has always drawn me to his music. On the first page of the biography, Shelton encapsulates the mining town: “Hibbing had dug its own grave with sixty years of mining shovels, now only good for burying miners.” This description reminded me of my hometown that imploded when the Morrell’s meat packing plant left town three decades ago. As the book went on to describe the very familiar scene of empty storefronts and prevalent backwater conservatism, I decided I had to visit Bob Dylan’s hometown, a seven hour drive north from where I grew up.
On this month’s episode we jump between new music from Woods, Hamilton Leithauser, Spoon, and Open Mike Eagle to classic tracks from Soundgarden, Aimee Mann, Wugazi, and Bob Dylan. Check out the new episode HERE or suscribe on iTunes (search keyword: BDWPS).
Woods “Moving to the Left”
Hamilton Leithauser “11 o’ clock Friday Night”
Soundgarden “Girl U Want”
Spoon “You Do”
Aimee Mann “Save Me”
Open Mike Eagle “Golden Age Raps”
Wugazi “Another Chessboxin’ Argument”
Bob Dylan “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind”
We are almost to the mid-point of 2014, and there have already been some outstanding releases. With a promising second half of the year ahead of us, I’d like to take a moment to spotlight some of my favorite albums from the year so far. To try to keep some semblance of control, I’ve limited my list to albums released prior to June 1st.
With Light and With Love
Five albums in and not much has changed with Wood’s music, at least on the surface. The band still has that lo-fi Americana, stoner groove that people (including myself) first fell in love with five years ago with Songs of Shame, but upon closer inspection, their latest release With Light and With Love reveals the band’s immense growth as both musicians and songwriters.
Back in the beginning, the band was best known and appreciated for its lo-fi production and ramshackle performances. Wood’s sloppiness also served as its strength – a band whose recordings often sounded like live performances captured on an old, dusty tape recorder buried in the couch cushions next to a long forgotten joint.