2014 Best Songs (Part 6, Course 5)

(This is part 6 of a 6 part post; to start from the beginning or the middle, click the list to the right—>)

Right about now you should be quite full. Maybe you’re not sure you can take in any more morsels of music. 500fullOf course you can. Don’t be silly! It just has to be the right music.  On a full stomach, on an overwhelmed eardrum, what is needed is something soothing and calming. And we have just the right mix to transition you to the end of the dining experience.

2014 had a plethora of music to fit the late night, end of meal experience. So much in fact, that to narrow it down to five songs was very difficult. I’ve had to leave out a couple songs I truly love, like Jessica Lea Mayfield’s “Standing in the Sun” which is a favorite. And Damien Jurado, whose album Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is so good, so worth spending some quality time with. I really wanted to include his moody masterpiece “Metallic Cloud” but it just doesn’t fit with the other five. What is it they say? Kill your children? Well, I’m not killing them, but I’m making them stay outside.

What did make the final five are the following:

1. Real Estate – Had to Hear

Real Estate is the perfect band to play at the end of a party. And it sort of works while driving down the highway in a convertible down a country road. This song, “Had to Hear” has a summery R.E.M. twang to it, though it’s a bit dreamier. Calmer. All I know, is that when I play this song, I can’t help but relax. It has a 70’s Laurel Canyon vibe as well, and the guitar play in the 2nd half of the song is really tasty, perhaps a bit jam-bandy, but in a good way. A song like this shouldn’t be hurried.

2. Angus and Julia Stone – Main Street

If you thought the Real Estate song was trance-inducing, it’s borderline frenetic compared to this song, “Main Street” by Angus and Julia Stone. To me, this song is perfect. It’s got the amazing intermingling of Angus and Julia’s tender voices, both of them tinged with a sweet pain, it’s got some of the most subtle, tasteful drumming I’ve heard all year, it’s got layers of hypnotic guitar lines. And the sense of melancholy, of a time long ago, drips thickly over the entire song. I have to think that some of it is due to the amazing production of Rick Rubin, who I was truly surprised was behind the boards on this album, though I really shouldn’t have been. His take-charge, hands-on approach doesn’t work with everyone. But here, it’s a perfect match. Some critics have found the album too produced, that he takes away from the Stone siblings’ pure sound. But I disagree. I can’t wait to spend more time with their self titled album in 2015.

Starting to relax a bit? Need a refill on your tea or coffee? We got three more songs to go before you can get on with your post-meal life.

3. Beck – Heart is a Drum

It’d been several years since Beck graced us with new music, but he’s done it again, putting out yet another essential album. He’s not treading new ground here, in fact some people have called his new album Morning Phase, “Sea Change Part 2.” And they wouldn’t be wrong. But it’d been more than 10 years since Sea Change so new melancholic tunes from one of the best songwriters of my generation is fine in my book. There’s something uplifting and inspiring about this song, “Heart is a Drum.” It makes me want to notice the good in the world around me. It’s almost the exact opposite energy of his first single back in 1994, “Loser,” which dripped with ironic detachment. I guess that’s what 20 years can do. I think it’s called growing up (or maybe just older).

4. Bryan Ferry – Soldier of Fortune

Bryan Ferry is the epitome of cool. Always has been. Even as the singer in Roxy Music, before they became more commercially palatable in their later years, Bryan Ferry has dressed the role of suave gentleman. The silks, the suits, the jet black hair, either slicked back or hanging in his face. But for all the years I’ve been listening to him sing for Roxy and on his more than 10 solo albums, I would never describe his singing as vulnerable or aching. His voice was smooth like butter, or in his earlier years, a bit quirky and off-kilter. Now, at age 69, Bryan Ferry is finally showing a bit of weariness in his voice. And on the second song on his excellent new album Avonmore,”Soldier of Fortune,” he expresses a side of himself that is haunting and adds a real richness to his vocal repertoire.

5. Ben Watt – Forget

Ben Watt is probably best known as being one-half of Everything But The Girl, the British electronic pop duo from the 80’s and 90’s. He’s worked on many other projects during that time and since, including several solo albums, but never really became more than a highly regarded producer and songwriter amongst his peers. That probably won’t change with his 2014 release “Hendra,” but it should. It’s one of those albums that only a person who has lived a full life, of recovering from serious illness, of having had time to reflect back on his experiences and relationships and how to put it all into song. Bringing in such guests as David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Bernard Butler (Suede), Watt has crafted an album that blends impeccable musicianship with contemplative and sometimes heart-wrenching songwriting. Watt’s voice has a smooth, comfortable tone to it, like a warm blanket, but not at all sterile. To give you a sense of how mellow this album is, “Forget” is maybe the most uptempo song on it. It’s one of those albums you put on when you are lying in front of a fire with a glass of wine, or wanting to let go the stresses of the day.

And, of course, a great end to a special meal, when you’ve finished your tea or your coffee, paid the bill, tipped your waitstaff generously, made your way back home, holding the hand of your lover, both of you smiling, reliving the deliciousness of the evening in your minds, a sense of tempered anticipation for what lies ahead in the coming year.

 

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