End of the year? Time for end-of-year lists! It’s time to round up favorites and put the spotlight on the songs that made the biggest impacts in our worlds for the sole purpose of filling space. I mean honoring them.
Having so much great music here in our fair city, it would be criminal not to devote this piece to the artists that live right beside us. The ones who are producing gut-wrenching songs and blasting fist-pumping power anthems, but can also get caught rocking some ’70s ABA shorts while shopping at Dirty Kroger. (I’m talking to you, Will Oldham.) So without further ado — and this is by no means a comprehensive list — here are some of the Louisville musicians that really made me take notice in 2014.
Let’s start with The Pass, who figured out how to fill a year with new music. The electropop outfit spent the first few months releasing a new 7-inch single every month and are rounding out the year with an EP comprised of completely different tunes. I love that they’re still messing around with their sound, too. The new songs, while still within the same sandbox, have a different kind of explosive quality to them than say, “Alone Again,” which for me is one of the best songs to come out of this city in the past five years.
Speaking of artists who never seem to quit, Jonathan Glen Wood continued his nonstop creation machine. With Old Baby between records, Wood released a solo album that should sit atop any Americana fan’s list, and he’s been supporting it with a tour alongside Catherine Erwin, which is really a dream bill.
If singer-songwriter is your thing, Kyle James Hauser’s “You a Thousand Times” and Alex Wright’s “Starlight Navigator” are a must for your mix. Wright not only walked away with a Louisville Music Award, but his live show is not to be missed. He never wastes the opportunity, much of the time having upwards of eight to 10 folks backing him up. It’s a big sound, and the music will creep into your head.
Dawn Landes still counts as local, right? She may move around these days, but we’ll always claim her. “Try to Make a Fire Burn Again” stops me in my tracks every time. Knowing it was her “divorce” record only adds to the weight. But honestly, it’s so, so good — without or without the context. Add D.W. Box’s “Tall Blonde Girls” into a similar space. It’s a shame that one hasn’t had more attention. And why isn’t Plastic Bubble’s “Sol Invictus” on every TV show and commercial?
By now, Scott Carney is putting his efforts more into his Heavy Friends solo dealie, so thank goodness we finally got “The Astronaut” beforehand. The Wax Fang space opera was long promised and even longer in the making, and it was worth every minute. Grab the vinyl version and try to find one of those egg chairs with the built-in speakers for the complete Kubrick experience.
My top accolades go to The Deloreans and House Ghost. The former released only a single this year, “As Long As It’s You,” but a helluva single it was. For the latter, you’d be hard pressed to find a more perfect pop song than “Cactus Killer,” and their wordplay within “Move” is only one example of their super-smart lyrical attack. I want these bands to be famous. Very famous.
As for artists well on their way to their own fame, Joan Shelley’s “Electric Ursa” has been getting prime attention on both sides of the pond. Her hushed songwriting is a powerhouse all unto its own. And that voice! I have a feeling that we’ll be writing about her music for decades to come.
I’ve probably worn out my Julie of the Wolves record. Full-on rock that carries a healthy dose of punk. Play it loud. Then play it again. And then play White Reaper’s debut EP right after. “Cool” won song of the year for good reason.
On the way? 2015 promises a Houndmouth LP, a new one from Daniel Martin Moore, new music from Andrew Rinehart, Scott Carney’s solo album, and not one but two My Morning Jacket records. And probably another handful of singles from Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Excited? You should be.
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.