Albums I Discovered Last Year

A happy byproduct of the fracturing of popular culture distribution models due to the prevalence of the internet is that I have come across some great music that has been out for longer than a month. I now have somewhere else to go to find music that does not involve radio station hopping to avoid the adverts or inane DJs, or flicking through the limited video playlist on music TV channels. And no it is not Spotify, which is great for the listener (not that good for the artist as they get very little out of the deal), but the rise of access to really wonderful podcasts from around the world. So thank you to Sound Opinions, a podcast from WBEZ Chicago that either introduced me to or reminded me that I should go and seek out the following:

Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krause

Writer's Block by Peter Bjorn and John


The Gift by Sons and Daughters

This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

Crazy For You by Best Coast

Shake It Out

New music comes to us in quite weird and wonderful ways these days.  I heard about my current favourite album, Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes, through a US podcast, Sound Opinions from WBEZ in Chicago. The band of three old school mates and a friend from a record store from Athens, Alabama eventually found their way to a studio in Nashville in early 2011 where they recorded a couple of original songs and started to play live.  And what fantastic live performers they are. They played a set on the Sound Opinions podcast, and the hard hitting vocals a driving music blasted out, knocking my socks off.   I immediately youtubed them to hear more.

And then I stumbled upon the album in Basement Discs, in Melbourne. I bought it.  Yes I bought an actual CD.  Archaic I know, but sometimes I like to actually buy something physical, take it home, unwrap it and put it on to listen to. The soulful sounds of Brittany Howard, the 23 year old lead singer came growling out of the speakers.  Raw soul and funk, harking back to the sounds of the 1960s.  The album and the band are gaining momentum this year and I can’t wait to hear what they will do next.

The other album I chanced to hear while I was browsing in Basement Discs was another debut, Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars. They are a duo from the South of the US who play stripped down, acoustic arrangements, without a back-up band. The lyric driven, country flavoured songs found their voice at their first show at the French Quarter Café in Nashville.  Their music has been played on Grey’s Anatomy and re-recorded by two characters in an integral scene in the pilot of the new US TV show, Nashville, which is set in the country music capital of the world and stars Connie Britton from Friday Night Lights and Hayden Panetierre from Heroes.  It looks to be rollicking good fun in an All About Eve way.  Who would have thought that the common denominator for two quite different bands, with very different sounds, would be Nashville – the town and the sound.  Not something I anticipated.  

However you are discovering new music, whether it is being pushed to you on iTunes, sent as a youtube clip, listening to a podcast or even in the old fashioned way of hearing in on the radio, at least there are some occasions where it can be a happy accident, and you can hear it in a record store.  Stranger things have happened.