Jacob Golden – Two free album downloads available

That nice man Jacob Golden has kindly sent me two downloads of The Invisible Record to give away for free. It was one of my albums of the year. So, it’s highly recommended. Just send me a message via Twitter or leave a comment with a contact e-mail below and I’ll send the code to you. Enjoy. And thanks again to Jacob Golden.

 

Best of 2015 … The final countdown

What do you get for the artist who has everything at this time of the year? A mention on the Half-Life Music Best of 2015 list, of course. Here are my favourite albums of the year. Artists, you’re welcome. Happy Holidays.

Joanna Newsom – Divers

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My favourite album of the year was full of wonderfully elliptical phrases, both musically and lyrically. There were hints of earlier work. ‘You Will Not Take My Heart Alive’ had a distinct ‘Monkey & Bear’ feel. Yet this is an songwriter who showed that she is maturing with every album. There was simply nothing to compare with it.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

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An album about maternal abandonment and death? Only his Sufjanness could write this most beautiful set of songs about such a miserable theme. Just the thing to put on at that point in the holiday when the merriment becomes just a little bit too much.

Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes

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If Mark Kozelek has a marketing manager, then she or he must surely have been doing a face palm at the very moment when this album came out. Mr Moon’s frankly offensive comments to a journalist on the eve of its release overshadowed the critical reception to the album. To be fair, the music press still tried to assess the album dispassionately, but it was difficult. Yet this was a masterpiece. Woven together across the different tracks, the observations were pointillistic, but the themes were indeed universal.

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

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‘Only Memories Remain’ was the wistful coda to a triumphant return to form from the Jacketeers. It pointed to the fact that underneath the rollicking riffs and shimmery synths, there were some darker themes to The Waterfall.

Best of 2015 … Part 4

Regular visitors to this site will know that I have a weakness for psych-tinged, country-flecked, resolutely indie, rootsy Americana, preferably with a lap steel thrown in somewhere along the way. It was a good year for this particular genre. Here are my five favourites.

Israel Nash – Israel Nash’s Silver Season

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With or without his Gripka, Israel Nash is the current king country psych. He’s willing to give time to let themes develop, but never gives in to longueur or excess. That’s a winning formula.

Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands

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“And may all your favorite bands stay together”. A lovely sentiment to match a fine album. And with it, Dawes consolidated their place as one of the bands that I’d like to see staying together for a very long time.

American Aquarium – Wolves

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Wolves was a little less frenetic than some of American Aquarium’s previous releases and it was no worse for that. This was a masterclass in mature songwriting and playing. And with a certain southern sadness thrown in as well. What could be better?

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier

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Even Deerhunter’s most restrained offering of recent times still left them slightly out there. But that’s what was so good about Fading Frontier. Think of it as Radiohead’s Americana album.

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

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Jason Isbell is pretty much East Nashville-tinged musical royalty by now. Something More Than Free cemented his reputation as one of the best songwriter’s around. And ‘Children Of Children’ was one of the great songs of the year.

Best of 2015 … Part 3

When war is a thing of the past, when hunger and poverty have been banished from the land, when the Cubs finally win the World Series, then the world will be a better and fairer place and these artists will sell millions of albums. In the meantime, we have to be content with the thought that they all delivered a great record this year, even if some of them had to ship the units themselves. Here’s my Best of the Year, Pt. 3.

Noah Gundersen – Carry The Ghost

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Carry The Ghost managed to bring a winter chill to warm summer days. It had its share of slow, sad songs, but there were some feisty guitar licks too. And it all came to a head on ‘Heartbreaker’. There’s a clue in the title.

Gill Landry

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As part of Old Crow Medicine Show, Gill Landry used to sell millions of albums (well maybe). As a solo artist, he has found his voice. And what a good one it is. His s/t release was chock full of gorgeous, slightly melancholy songs. Oh, and a duet with Laura Marling. Now that was something.

John Statz – Tulsa

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Honest albums from hard-working artists. That’s always a good start and John Statz took it from there. Tulsa was full of small-town stories with very big themes. And all of them backed by some fine playing and great production.

Jacob Golden – Invisible Record

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After a long absence Jacob Golden returned with a triumph of an album. It was worth the wait. Catchy hooks, bittersweet lyrics, and a certain integrity that transcended the music  alone. Will we have to wait so long for the next instalment?

Grand Lake Islands – Song From Far

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Rumours of a merger with Great Lake Swimmers turned out to be false. So, we were left with Song From Far. And very happy it made us. This January release was the harbinger of a really great musical year.

Best of 2015 … The Antipodes

Here’s my best-of-the-year Pt 2: The Antipodes

Once upon a time Liverpool, or San Francisco, or Seattle was at the centre of all that was good musically. Now, everything has gone south. Australia and New Zealand are currently where it’s at. So much so that they’re worthy of an end-of-year list all to themselves.

The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams

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This was a band that sounded like they were enjoying themselves. Loaded with irony, it didn’t come much better than ‘Bob Lennon John Dylan’. On the Pono version you can even hear a reference to Han Solo. How topical.

Holy Holy – When the Storms Would Come

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An instant classic. The four songs at the heart of the album – ‘A Heroine’, ‘History’, ‘If I Were You’, and ‘You Cannot Call …’ – should be played on repeat to anyone who thinks that guitar-based rock is a thing of the past. Au contraire, Holy Holy are a band of the future.

Nadia Reid – Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs

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There’s an unassuming quality to Nadia Reid that belies the confidence of the songs on her recent album. Moving through various styles, the constant presence is her voice, which is clear and lovely.

Lost Ragas – Trans Atlantic Highway

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Packed with slightly mournful, but beautifully played songs, Trans Atlantic Highway was a revelation. Think of The Byrds relocating to modern-day East Nashville. Well, it’s even better than that.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

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What best-of-2015 list does not feature Slacker Barnett, you may ask? Well, there’s a good reason why. Great hooks and erudite observations of everyday and not-so-everyday life from the clever one who always sits at the back of the class. And all delivered in a refreshingly local accent.

Best of 2015 … Big names

‘Tis the season to divulge one’s end-of-year lists. Here’s part 1: Great albums by big names.

Big names often disappoint. Oh, how I once looked forward to the latest release from Sting. Well, in an alternate universe anyway. Sometimes, though, the big artists continue to deliver great work. Here’s a selection from 2015. (Spoiler alert: Adele is not included in the following list.)

Neil Young + Promise of the Real – The Monsanto Years

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Following Neil Young is like being on a rollercoaster ride. After a couple of duds – Storytone, A Letter Home – he came back with a scorcher. A little preachy, to be sure. But with some fine tunes and playing that hits the heights of the great Crazy Horse, The Monsanto Years was so good it almost made me want to eat GMO food. Did I miss something?

Björk – Vulnicura

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I shall lay my heart bare. Indeed, I shall portray it as such on the cover of my album. There wasn’t much subtext on Björk’s album, but it was certainly raw and confessional. This was a Björk sans affectation, sans happening, sans the usual Björk. And all the better for that.

Don Henley – Cass County

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Don Henley isn’t a huge name in his own recording right, but the point is that he delivered a really nice album this year. The version of Tift Merrit’s ‘Bramble Rose’ was worth the price of admission on its own. Overall, there was a sense of an artist who wasn’t afraid to show that he was in the latter stages of his career. That’s refreshing. Especially when the tunes are as good as these.

Ryan Adams – 1989

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In my world, Ryan Adams is the biggest artist. This year he surprised us with a full cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Great cover songs transform the originals. And here was a whole album of same. It raised the idea of Taylor Swift covering Heartbreaker in its entirety. Oh be still my beating heart.

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