Jonc’s Best of 2014 Lists

This has been quite the interesting year musically. As mentioned in the previous post, I chose to branch out with where I got my music. I listened to Santa Clara University’s radio station KSCU for a good while, but I also listened to Boston’s Radio BDC, the various stations on our Sirius XM setup, and even used the good ol’ car radio to listen to KFOG, Live 105 and other terrestrial stations. I also kept up on the new releases being pushed by the various music blogs and magazines, and checked out the occasional streamed preview as well. It turned out to be quite an eclectic year in the process, with all kinds of genres seeping into my playlist over the course of the year.


Old Bands, Awesome Releases: Still Going Strong After All These Years
U2, Songs of Innocence. This album received mounds of grief when it came out because of its original iTunes release. The most vocal hated it purely out of spite, having been “forced” to add it to their collection without their say-so. Regardless…I still say this is one hell of a tight album. The songwriting is solid, the production is crisp and lively, and the band sounds reinvigorated here.
Big Wreck, Ghosts. A band from my HMV years, having released an album in 1998 and 2001, they vanished for over a decade before returning with 2012’s Albatross. A lot of bands with that much of a stretch between releases don’t often have a follow up soon after, but these guys pulled it off with an even crunchier, heavier album. Well worth picking up.
Failure, “Come Crashing” and “The Focus” singles. HOLY CRAP FAILURE GOT BACK TOGETHER?? SWEET! Love this band, and I was so happy to hear Ken, Kellii and Greg returned with not one but two solid new singles (both available on their Bandcamp site), a tour, and a possible new album in the works. I’m totally looking forward to hearing what they have in store.
The Verve Pipe, Overboard. These guys have been under the radar the last few years, taking alternate routes in music. Singer Brian Vander Ark led an interesting solo career, balancing album releases with self-managed house concerts, and gathering the band back together a few years back for a few children’s albums. This album was a very welcome return to their more alternative rock sound.

Old Albums, Awesome Reissues and Remasters
The Beatles, The US Albums box set. Yeah, I know…don’t I already own everything this band released in triplicate already? Well, when the band officially releases the CD versions of their US discography, especially on my birthday, I can’t help but jump at it. [And besides, I pretty much paid for it all via multiple B&N gift cards and a 20% off coupon I happened to have on hand.] The music source is the 2009 remasters, but the packaging was exquisite, including the original butcher sleeve for Yesterday and Today. It was like starting my collection all over again, thirty-plus years later!
George Harrison, The Apple Years 1968-75 box set. Same could be said here, but it was well worth it for some new remasterings, great liner notes and packaging, and some of his best solo tracks.
Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair Reissue/Remaster. Oh man, I LOVED this album back when it came out in 1985, so much so that it’s one of the few tapes I had that wore out. It’s great to hear this album again with such great sound, especially since the remaster was done by Steven Wilson, who seems to have turned into a remaster god as of late. Totally worth picking up, even just for the original album!
Pink Floyd, The Endless Sea. Say what you will about this album, given that it’s leftover jam material from sessions for 1994’s The Division Bell, it’s a lovely ambient collection nonetheless, full of signature later Floyd soundscapes. David Gilmour’s somber “Louder Than Words” is a nice ending chapter to the band’s epic history.

Best Opening Tracks
Beck, “Cycle”/”Morning”. When I listened to the streaming preview of his Morning Phase album on the NPR website, I knew right away that I would absolutely LOVE this album, even before I heard any other tracks. The string-laden “Cycle” and the drowsy “Morning” manage to capture the sound of an early rising sun and turn it into aural poetry, evoking the feeling that a new day and a fresh start had just begun.
Interpol, “All the Rage Back Home”. This track does double duty–first, it opens up El Pintor suggesting a newer, more melodic sound from the band. It’s almost summery, dreamy in a Beach Boys sort of way, something they captured perfectly in the video.
TV On the Radio, “Quartz”. Like Beck’s “Cycle”, it’s more of an overture than a song proper, and it sets the mood for the rest of the album, which ends up being poppier, catchier and more emotional than previous releases.

Best Closing Tracks
Alt-J, “Lovely Day”. A bonus track at the end of the album, it’s a lovely song that’s a perfect coda to the band’s moodier, darker second album.
The Black Keys, “Gotta Get Away”. Sure, it’s a throwaway song that shouldn’t be taken that seriously at all. My favorite description of this song by a music blog suggested it sounds like one of those goofy music montages in the middle of a Scooby Doo or an Archies cartoon. It’s pure fun, just like the rest of the album.
U2 feat. Lykke Li, “The Troubles”. U2 has often ended their albums on a somber note–“Wake Up Dead Man”, “Exit”, and “40” come to mind–and this track follows the lead to quiet yet chilling effect.

[No particular order, top favorite in bold]

Alt-J, This is All Yours
AnaDaenia, Digital Scars
Beck, Morning Phase
Big Wreck, Ghosts
Deathmøle, Permanence
Elbow, The Take Off and Landing of Everything
The History of Apple Pie, Feel Something
The Horrors, Luminous
Interpol, El Pintor
Johnny Marr, Playland
Kaiser Chiefs, Education, Education, Education & War
Lamb, Backspace Unwind
Mono, The Last Dawn/Rays of Darkness
OK Go, Hungry Ghosts
Phantogram, Voices
Phish, Fuego
Sloan, Commonwealth
TV On the Radio, Seeds
U2, Songs of Innocence
Warpaint, Warpaint

[No particular order, top favorite in bold]

Alt-J, “Left Hand Free”
Beck, “Blue Moon”
Big Data, “Dangerous”
Black Rivers, “Voyager 1”
Elbow, “New York Morning”
Failure, “Come Crashing”
Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
The Horrors, “I Feel You”
Interpol, “All the Rage Back Home”
Jungle, “Busy Earnin’”
My Goodness, “Cold Feet Killer”
Night Terrors of 1927, “When You Were Mine”
OK Go, “The Writing’s On the Wall”
Phantogram, “Black Out Days”
Robert DeLong, “Long Way Down”
Spoon, “Do You”
Temples, “Shelter Song”
tUnE-yArDs, “Water Fountain”
TV On the Radio, “Careful You”
U2, “Raised By Wolves”

Why TV On the Radio’s “Careful You” Is My Favorite Song of the Moment

I listen to a hell of a lot of music.  A metric crapton of tunage.  Even I’m amazed that I can remember half of what’s in my own collection, let alone remember the various songs I hear on the car radio or whatever station I happen to be streaming.  Lately I’ve been listening to RadioBDC (the online station created from the ashes of Metro Boston’s WFNX and owned by to get my head around more of the popular alternative rock again.

And every now and then, a track pops out at me that makes me take notice.  This happened in 2002 with Interpol’s “PDA”, in 1994 with Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”, in 1988 with The Church’s “Under the Milky Way”, last year with Dutch Uncles’ “Fester”.  I can’t always say what it is that catches my ear–it could be the mix, the mood it creates, or even the dynamics of the song.  The song could be fast, slow, ambient, or loud, doesn’t matter.  It may not even click with me the first time…it may just happen to hit me at the right moment when I’m doing something else, or happen to be in a specific mood.

Such is the case with TV On the Radio, whose Seeds just dropped a few weeks ago.  I’ve been a fan of them since 2004 when they released their murky, weird debut Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. Not exactly a huge fan, as their earlier albums, while fantastic, are sometimes a bit hard to listen to, especially during writing sessions.  Seeds, on the other hand, is a much lighter affair, with poppier and catchier songs and a very crisp production.  And I absolutely love it.  [And it passed the test last night of being a great writing session soundtrack.]

So what is it about “Careful You” that I love so much?

On the surface, it’s no different than any other semi-electronic rock track out there by someone like, say, Bear in Heaven.  There’s echoey reverb, there’s a wobbly synth riff underlying the entire song, and the lyrics, while creative, are also economic in use.  It’s a love song, a plea made at the moment the relationship could go either way: don’t know/should we stay/should we go/should we pack it up and turn it around?  And he states his case right off the bat: Oui, je t’aime, oui, je t’aime/à demain à la prochaine. [Roughly, “Yes, I love you, tomorrow and the next (day).”]  The chord progression is simple but effective: a muted Eb/Db/Cm/B/Eb on the verses, and a ringing Eb/Bb/Db/Eb on the chorus.

It occurred to me after maybe the third or fourth listen: this is is a Beatles song, isn’t it?

Those chords are straight out of the Please Please Me songbook–that Cm-B-Eb passage in the verse is very much something Paul or John would have enjoyed back in ’63.  Tunde Adebimpe’s delivery of the lyrics are fantastic too, alternating loud and soft.  Verses, quiet: line 1 is given on beat, line 2 is double-time, line 3 is off the beat but never wavering far, and line 4 brings it back to the beginning, on beat.  Chorus, loud:  line 1 is high and on beat, line 2 descends triple-time (and phrased to drop the last beat), line 3 is triple time but ascending, with line 4 carrying the entire theme: I will care for you/oh, careful you.  John and Paul would have been amused by that wordplay.

Sonically there’s a lot of interesting bits going on in there as well.  Very low bass notes only show up on the chorus.  David Andrew Sitek shows up with his chiming guitar during the chorus, hitting only four high notes — Eb, F, F, Eb — but with the tone (deep reverb) and direction (ascending when the chords descend, and vice versa), it adds more energy to the section of the song.  Kyp Malone adds background harmony vocals throughout as well, but very sparingly, singing on octave in lines 1 and 2 of the lyrics, and only venturing into true harmony on lines 3 and 4.  His high-register delivery is often delicate, underscoring the lyrics as well.  There’s an odd sound drop too, right under the line things will never be the same, where we lose all music for those last few words.  If that’s intentional, it definitely works to drive the point home.  Finally, the coda holds the only change in melody: a repeating Gb/F/Eb line repeating with a sampled Tunde singing “no no no”.  It doesn’t so much fade or stop cold but falls apart, leaving us in the air–we have no idea if this relationship will be on the mend or not.

“Careful You” a wonderfully written, brilliantly produced track, and even if I’m not paying attention to all the bits and bobs that make up the track, it’s still an absolutely lovely song.

Walk in Silence: End of Year Wrap-Up and Plans for 2014

Hi Gang!

I’m sure you all are awaiting the next few Blogging the Beatles posts from me, and granted, I will definitely get to them in the next week or so.  You know how the last few weeks of the year are…a lot of last-minute running around, catching up on things, holiday errands and whatnot, and the end-of-year/end-of-quarter insanity that happens at work.

Over the last day or so I’ve also been building up a classic old-fashioned best-of-year compilation: I may not be committing this music to tape or cd like in the past, but considering it’s been twenty-five years since the first year end compilation I did, I felt it prudent to work within the confines of the original: I’d work in batches of forty-five minutes, as if I were creating this mix on ninety-minute tapes like the ones I’d buy at Radio Shack.  I’d also focus more on the sequencing–over the past few years, I’d basically build a file full of mp3s, jumble them up using random shuffle, and do some final tweaking with songs I wanted in certain positions.  This time out, I’m building the playlist song by song, with specific placement for certain songs.

I’d mentioned on Twitter that I’d chosen We Sing and Dance As We Go: The Singles 2013 for this year’s compilation; this is actually a nod to the first one I made in 1988.  The title comes from Wire’s “As We Go” from their Change Becomes Us album from this year, which closes out Tape 1 at 89 minutes 20 seconds.  The first one had the title of Does Truth Dance? Does Truth Sing?: The Singles 1988, which comes from Wire’s “A Public Place” from their A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck album, which ends Tape 1 on that year’s compilation.  This past year has definitely been one of retromania–college rock bands from the 80s releasing new product, new bands from today releasing sounds very similar to the 80s vibe, and a hell of a lot of impressive reissues and box set retrospectives as well.  I will most likely cover a number of these at the start of the new year.

But yes…as noted on Twitter, I will be posting the playlist for We Sing and Dance As We Go: The Singles 2013 as soon as I complete it.  I will also be working on a year-end post as well.


So!  In other news, I have a few more posts to go for the BtB series:

No One’s Gonna Change Our World (featuring “Across the Universe”) and The Beatles’ Seventh Christmas Record

–“Let It Be”/”You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” and Let It Be

–The new songs “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” (of course I was going to include those!)

Once those are done, I will, as mentioned previously, be ramping up on the music posts here at Walk in Silence.  I plan on posting some kind of record review, whether it’s from the 80s heyday of college rock or something new that just came out.  I’m hoping to get at least one post up per week, but if I can manage another one at some point, that’s fine too.  I’m looking forward to writing up some new articles in the new year, and I hope you’ll enjoy them.


Happy Holidays! 🙂