Turning the Turntables 2015 | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Turning the Turntables 2015 

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Welcome to our second annual Turning the Turntables music survey. With the aim of getting other perspectives of the Hudson Valley music scene, we asked a select cast of local musicians, writers, record store folks, radio DJs, venue bookers/owners, and others to tell us what sounds they dug in 2014, which local artists they enjoy, what releases they're looking forward to in 2015, and which artists they have their eyes and ears on.

Tony Fletcher

Author of Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon, All Hopped Up and Ready to Go, and others

Due to the fact that I'm writing a biography about him, I have been listening to vast amounts of Wilson Pickett. Two artists whose music I was listening to in the late 1980s delivered some of their strongest work to date in 2014—the band James, from Manchester, with La Petite Mort (Cooking Vinyl Records), and Sinead O'Connor, with I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss (Nettwerk Music Group). Both records deal explicitly with sexuality, proving that such intimacy is not the exclusive provenance of young pups. They also both deal with death: in James's case, by embracing the passing of front man Tim Booth's mother as a rebirth, and in Sinead's case, with a typically naked confession of her suicidal tendencies. They are the kind of songs that can only be written after decades of accrued experience and wisdom. Equally satisfying were the not one but two full-length collaborations between Brian Eno and Karl Hyde, the former man needing no introduction, the latter beloved in our household as the charismatic front man with Underworld. Eno initially recruited Hyde to help finish various riffs he had scattered around his life; the pair enjoyed the results of that collaboration (Someday World) so much that they immediately headed back to the studio to record an exuberant fresh set of poetry and rhythm, High Life, released just two months later. Naturally, Eno simultaneously unveiled an app that turned the spinning vinyl (yes, vinyl) into 3D grooves. Visiting Muscle Shoals in November for research on the Pickett book, I was fortunate to see a show by Hannah Aldridge, a singer-songwriter better known in Europe than her native Alabama. Her latest album, Razor Wire (Trodden Black Entertainment), exemplifies what I would call "Americana noir," and I highly recommend the video for the single "Howlin' Bones." I'm also eager to hear a full album by Australian wunderkind Courtney Barnett, whose songs "History Eraser" and "Avant Gardener" were two of the lyrical highlights of my year. And my children, 19 and 9, are big fans of Steam Powered Giraffe, who embody the steampunk ethic from the perspective of their robot alter egos. When not being too clever for their own good, they write songs of some beauty.

Ida Hakkila

Host of Radio Woodstock's "The Heavy Light Show"

My favorite album of the year was Freeman (Partisan Records) by Aaron Freeman from Ween. All the songs are really good. The song "Gimme One More" just grabs you, slow and intense and driving, and really soulful too. Kelis's album Food (Ninja Tune Records) was also really good, with each song strong and different from the last. I liked a lot of tracks off the two new Prince albums and Angel Olsen's Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguar Records). This year, there were a lot of smart, fun, funky punk songs by bands like Parquet CourtsFuture Punx, and Plague Vendor. Bands that remind me of early Devo, the Minutemen, and the Big Boys. The song I played the most this year was Meatbodies' "Wahoo." [In the Hudson Valley] we are surrounded by amazing talent. You have to see Joey Eppard play live. It is actual magic. Of course, Amy Helm. She is channeling the Great Spirit and her band is flawless. Tracy Bonham, Elizabeth Mitchell, Lindsey Webster, Simi Stone! Arc Iris made an incredible album this year and they're great live. Connor Kennedy and everything he is a part of, including Cows and Thunder, who I've seen a few times this year. Also, see any show with the kids from the Paul Green Rock Academy. They work so hard, and it really shows, plus it's a blast! I can't wait for Mark Ronson's new album! The Mystikal and Bruno Mars singles are out as I write this, and they are great. Also looking forward to Harts to release a full-length, and one of my favorites, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, should have a third album out pretty soon.

Mike Amari

Booking agent at BSP Kingston and promoter at Output Agency

I thought 2014 was a particularly good year for new music! I'm a sucker for hook-heavy riff rock, so the two records I've probably spun the most are Broncho's Just Enough Hip to Be Woman (Dine in Records) and Ex Hex's RIPS (Merge Records). The West Coast well of lo-fi guitar maniacs was as deep as ever: Ty Segall's Manipulator was my favorite of his since Goodbye Bread (both Drag City Records), and he also made crucial contributions to LPs from White Fence and newcomers Meatbodies. The most artistically bold record for me this year was Too Bright from Perfume Genius (Matador Records); there is so much pain in this dude's struggle to be gay and feel "normal" and "accepted," it makes for some absolutely heartbreaking and compelling material, no matter what you're into. I had the pleasure of booking some bands who put out great records this year too: the War on Drugs, Future Islands, Viet Cong, and there are so many great bands from the Hudson Valley who are breaking through on a national level. Look for big things in 2015 from locals Quarterbacks (Poughkeepsie), What Moon Things (New Paltz), and Breakfast In Fur (New Paltz).

Will Hermes

Author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever, senior critic at Rolling Stone, NPR contributor

I haven't played any record this year more than Brill Bruisers (Matador Records) by The New Pornographers, who I guess qualify as an honorary local band now. I just never took it out of my car's CD player. Irresistible hooks, shout-along harmonies, sly wit. I think the debuts by FKA Twigs and Sylvan Esso were the most compelling electronic pop records of the year—beautifully realized and deeply emotive. I also spent a lot of time with Commune (Sub Pop Records) by the psychedelic Swedish band Goat, and Electric Ursa (No Quarter Records) by the Kentucky alt-folk singer Joan Shelley. They just hit my aesthetic sweet spot. And I'm working on a biography of Lou Reed, so I've been deep in the stacks on his work. It's hard to calibrate who is "local" these days, as musicians especially are often on the move. I'm always interested in what John Medeski is up to, ditto Jamie Saft—another improvising keyboardist who I've seen twice locally with New Zion Trio, though he's got many other cool projects. I generally dig anything Elizabeth and Dan Littleton are involved in. And I'm super stoked lately for the curation at BSP Lounge, Club Helsinki, the Falcon, Team Love Ravenhouse Gallery, the Tin Roof Sessions, and other adventurous local outposts. It's a good bet that anything they're presenting will be high quality. Locally, there are new LPs due from Shana Falana, Breakfast In Fur, and Quarterbacks that I'm psyched about.

Dean Jones

Musician, producer, and big daddy of Hudson Valley kids' music

My most-played album of the year is Juana Molina's Wed 21 (Crammed Discs). I think she's a genius. She's created her own little world and I love going there. She plays everything herself and I can't figure out half of what she's doing. Inspirational. Other favorites: Son Lux's Lanterns (Joyful Noise Records), Alash, Toumani and Sidiki Diabate, St. Vincent, Kasai Allstars. Also, I'm mostly working in the world of music for kids, and there are a lot of great things happening right now. Gustafer Yellowgold, the Pop Ups, and Frances England are just a few that are doing unique and fun music that I listen to with my kids, and when they're not around. I'm loving a lot of the music coming out of our area right now. So many great things. But I just have to draw attention to one of my musical heroes, Paul McMahon. When I listen to music, I mostly tune out the words, but I love this man's words and mind. I'm hoping that someone volunteers to be his sugar daddy/mommy and funds a retrospective recording of all his songs. Paul's music should be documented and dispersed. Things I'm looking forward to? There's so much out there. I'm just always thrilled that it's so easy to search and find out, for instance, what music was happening in Kinshasa in 1955, and then see what's happening there now. There are always hotspots of musical innovation, like, say, Jamaica in the '60s, and I love the hunt for where the hotspots are now, and where they've been throughout the history of recorded music. A lifelong pursuit. Forgot about Michael Hurley, too. Probably my second-most played artist this year.

Tim Livingston

General manger of reissue record label Sundazed Music and Last Conspirators vocalist

Getting the most spins on my turntable this year were new albums from old-school punk rockers: UK pop-punk sensations the Boys' Punk Rock Menopause (Wolverine Records), Australian garage rockers the New ChristsIncantations (Impedance Records), and Sonny Vincent and Spite's Spiteful (Ultramafic Records), with his band consisting of Rat Scabies (the Damned) on drums, Glenn Matlock (Sex Pistols, Rich Kids) on bass, and Steve MacKay (the Stooges) on the lost rock 'n' roll secret weapon—the saxophone! As far as local artists go, Albany-based singer-songwriter Bryan Thomas continues to amaze me with his voice and songs. What I'm looking forward to most in 2015 is that band or artist that I don't already know who steps up and blows me away with their power and passion.

Justin Johnson

Co-owner of Darkside Records in Poughkeepsie

There have been quite a few records that have seen a lot of play for me. The new Weezer album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End (Republic Records), has been a constant, as it was finally the return to form they had been promising for so long. The songs got that element of fun back into the mix, but with a dose of maturity. Both of the new Prince albums (surprised, I know), Art Official Age and PlectrumElectrum (both Warner Bros. Records, the latter by his new side project, 3rdeyegirl), mainly because they just get embedded in my head for days on end. The latest Beck album, Morning Phase (Capitol Records), took up a good chunk of the early part of the year. Hard to say what it is about him, but he's turned himself into quite the enigma. And lastly, there is a pretty solid Swedish group that seems to have mastered the Americana sound: First Aid Kit is a band that needs to be heard. There is a local stoner instrumental metal band called Dead Empires that has been getting some heavy play amongst the guys in the store. Great guitar work, solid grooves, and really great production work. New album comes out in February, and it's gonna be killer. It's hard to keep track of all of the new stuff slated to come out. Blind Guardian has a new album for early next year, which is almost a sure thing. Faith No More is something I'll definitely listen to. New Megadeth? Metallica? And is it wrong to want to hear a new Marilyn Manson, just so I can tell my 16-year-old self I was wrong all along?

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