Music Millennium's Some of The Best of 2020
The Third Gleam marks a return to the Avett Brothers’ roots, both sonically and with Seth & Scott playing as a trio with longtime bassist Bob Crawford. The eight tracks capture their personal experiences and perspectives on undeniably timely, universal themes: isolation, gun violence, incarceration, historical prejudice, mortality, resilience, love, hope, redemption. 12 years in the making, this is the third installment of the brothers’ ongoing Gleam series.
2020 release. Washed Out is Atlanta-based producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene. Over three enchanting, critically-lauded albums and an EP, his music has proved both transportive and visual, each release inviting listeners into immersive, self-contained universes. With Purple Noon, his fourth album, and his return to Sub Pop, he delivers the most accessible Washed Out creation to date. For Purple Noon, Greene again wrote, recorded, and produced the entirety of the album, with mixing handled by frequent collaborator Ben H. Allen (Paracosm, Within and Without). Production of the album followed a brief stint of writing for other artists (most notably Sudan Archives) which enabled Greene to explore genres like R&B and modern pop. These brighter, more robust sounds made their way into the songs of Purple Noon and mark a new chapter for Greene as a producer and songwriter. The vocals are front and center, tempos are slower, beats bolder, and there's a more comprehensive depth of dynamics. Capism of Washed Out's oeuvre, taking the music to dazzling new heights.
Free Love thrives on collaborative frisson—two people pushing one another into new territories with the shared assurance of knowing they’re in good company, a sort of trust fall in reverse. Yes, these 10 songs are some of Sylvan Esso’s most direct. And most delicate. And most intricate. And most urgent. Free Love carries the confidence of two people delighted to be all those things, together, at once.
Far from apathetic, Good Luck With Whatever is Dawes at their most unapologetic. It’s sympathetic, magnetic, 50% genetic and highly kinetic. Songs like “Didn’t Fix Me” and “Me Especially” showcase Goldsmith’s poetic prowess perfectly; a historian of the human condition, transforming turmoil into motor oil. An unfiltered photograph of a band doing what they do best, these guys learned to rock before they could crawl. Produced by 6X Grammy winner Dave “Corn On The” Cobb.
Internationally renowned, beloved Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli releases breathtaking new album, Believe, celebrating the power of music to soothe the soul. It follows his record-breaking ‘Music for Hope’ performance at Easter from Milan’s historic Duomo cathedral. Features classic favorites, a previously unreleased track from late Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, plus Gratia Plena (from acclaimed film Fatima), duets with Alison Krauss and Cecilia Bartoli, and interpretations of Ave Maria and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1968, racial tensions across the country rose. Palo Alto, a largely white college town in Cali, wasn't immune. Danny Scher, a junior at the high school, had a dream to have Thelonious Monk perform and help bring about racial unity the community while raising funds for the International Committee. After many twists and turns, the triumphantly successful concert eventually happened. Now available on CD; Softpak w/ booklet & foldable poster.
The First Lady of Song Returns to Berlin, Home of Her Legendary Concerts. Recorded in 1962 but NEVER released, hear the most popular jazz singer of all time deliver an iconic performance at Sportpalast Berlin for the first time. This recording finds Ella and her band at the top of their game recorded in HIGH FIDELITY STEREO. With only two songs repeated from her hit record "Mack The Knife" two years earlier, this undiscovered recording stands on its own.
Singer-songwriters have been tackling existential questions about life and death since time immemorial' or at least the 1960s. But when it came to Blitzen Trapper's newest album, Holy Smokes Future Jokes, front man Eric Earley looked beyond mere existence'or even the end of it'to contend with grander cosmic explorations: namely, the intermediate period between a person's separate lives on earth, 'and what it means to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth,' he explains. Inspired by George Saunders' 2017 experimental tome, Lincoln in the Bardo and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Earley's lyrics take the listener on a wild and dramatic journey through rivers of waist-high water in the aftermath of a tragic car wreck and the hazy morning before a murderous moment, and from getting blitzed to the point of extinction inside a masonic temple to a stop for chips and dip before the apocalypse.
With their ninth album, Nada Surf: Matthew Caws, Daniel Lorca, Ira Elliot, and Louie Lino continue pursuing their humanistic vision of the world through hooky, catchy rock songs with sharply drawn, yet tenderly felt lyrics. Never Not Together, is a compact, yet wide-ranging collection of songs that revel in the quartet's ability to evoke and reflect grand and intricately wrought emotions, whether through sweeping guitar solos or hushed-whisper vocals. Never Not Together was recorded at the Coach House Studio in Wales' Rockfield Studios, where artists like Echo & the Bunnymen, the Flamin' Groovies, and Dumptruck recorded albums. "I've been seeing the name on albums for so long," says Caws. "It's a working farm, and the founder/owner, Kingsley Ward, would come in and tell us stories when he wasn't farming. I'd walk into town every morning and listen to the sheep talking as I walked by them."That openness to listening to their fans, to each other, to the world has helped inform Nada Surf's legacy as down-to-earth rock stars musicians who can command festival stages around the world while connecting to audience members on a personal level, conscious of the shared humanity every step of the way.
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56 page hardbound book with 2 CDs, handwritten lyrics and over 20 previously unseen photographs
When Elliott Smith's self-titled second album came out in 1995, it was ignored by the press but championed by artists from the Beastie Boys to Fugazi. To commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Elliott Smith, the Kill Rock Stars label is releasing a special deluxe package, which includes a new remastering of the original record; a coffee table book of previously unseen photographs by JJ Gonson with handwritten lyrics, reminiscences from Smith's friends and colleagues, and previously unseen photographs; and a bonus disc documenting the earliest known recording of Smith performing as a solo act. The set is a revelatory look at an under-appreciated work by an artist whose influence continues to expand seventeen years after his death.
When considering any great work of art, be it a painting, a novel, or a piece of music, it's natural to wonder what might have inspired it. Mark Lanegan's 2020 album, Straight Songs Of Sorrow, features guest appearances from Greg Dulli, Warren Ellis, John Paul Jones, Ed Harcourt and more, These 15 songs are inspired his life story, as documented in his new memoir, Sing Backwards And Weep. The book is a brutal, nerve-shredding read, thanks to Lanegan's unsparing candor in recounting a journey from troubled youth in eastern Washington, through his drug-stained existence amid the '90s Seattle rock scene, to an unlikely salvation at the dawn of the 21st century. There's death and tragedy, yet also humor and hope, thanks to the tenacity which impels it's host, even at his lowest moments. Today, Lanegan is a renowned songwriter and a much-coveted collaborator, as adept at electronica as with rock, constantly honing his indomitable voice: an asphalt-laced linctus for the soul. While the memoir documents a struggle to find peace with himself, his album emphasizes the extent to which he came to realize that music is his life.
Phoebe Bridgers doesn’t write love songs as much as songs about the impact love can have on our lives, personalities, and priorities. Punisher, her fourth release and second solo album, is concerned with that subject. To say she writes about heartbreak is to undersell her blue wisdom, to say she writes about pain erases all the strange joy her music emanates. The arrival of Punisher cements Phoebe Bridgers as one of the most clever, tender and prolific songwriters of our era.
Bridgers is the rare artist with enough humor to deconstruct her own meteoric rise. Repeatedly praised by publications like The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, Pitchfork, The Fader, The Los Angeles Times and countless others, Bridgers herself is more interested in discussing topics on Twitter, deadpanning meditations on the humiliating process of being a person, she presents a sweetly funny flipside to the strikingly sad songs she writes. Fittingly, Punisher is fascinated with, and driven by, that kind of impossible tension. Whether it’s writing tweets or songs, Bridgers’s singular talent lies in bringing fierce curiosity to slimy and painful things, interrogating them until they yield up answers that are beautiful and absurd, or faithfully reporting the reality that, sometimes, they are neither.
Bridgers pulls together a formidable crew of guests, including the Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, Christian Lee Hutson and Conor Oberst as well as Nathaniel Walcott (of Bright Eyes), Nick Zinner (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Jenny Lee Lindberg (of Warpaint), Blake Mills and Jim Keltner as well as her longtime bandmates Marshall Vore (drums), Harrison Whitford (guitar), Emily Retsas (bass) and Nick White (keys). The album was mixed by Mike Mogis, who also mixed Stranger In The Alps.
On the album’s epic, freewheeling closer, “I Know The End,” Bridgers orchestrates wails and horns, drums and electric guitar into a sumptuous doomsday swirl, culminating in her own final whispered roar. This is Punisher in a nutshell: devastating elegance punctuated by a moment of deeply campy self-awareness.
The Ascension is the eighth studio album from singer, songwriter and composer Sufjan Stevens and is the long awaited follow-up to Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell. One of the most acclaimed albums of 2015, The New York Times praised Carrie & Lowell as “restrained and meticulous” while Pitchfork declared it “a masterpiece.”
In the time between Carrie & Lowell and the forthcoming The Ascension, Stevens also released Oscar-nominated music for the Luca Guadagnino film Call Me By Your Name; a collaborative album entitled Planetarium with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner (The National) and James Mcalister; The Decalogue, a solo piano work performed by Timo Andres; and scored several works for ballet: Reflections (Houston Ballet) and Principia (NYCB).
The Ascension is musically expansive and sweeping in thematic scope.
ANDY SHAUF is becoming one of the most important songwriters of his generation. His songs are tuneful vignettes of small moments and big hearts. On his latest, The Neon Skyline, Shauf intertwines stories of a group of friends who frequent a local dive bar, and through them, makes poignant observations about human nature with a novelist’s detail and melancholic humor. The songwriting is down to earth, yet sophisticated and inventively melodic. The Neon Skyline is a creative leap for this already acclaimed artist.
"It was in winter 18/19 - I flew to Montreal to meet with Tim Kingsbury, Richard Reed Parry, Craig Silvey and Teddy Impakt at Le Studio Du Arcade Fire. It was a fine time with a dream team in a city I love. Winter in beautiful Quebec. Les semaines les plus froides de ma vie. I had a bunch of demos that were inspired by migration stories I had heard from friends or read in newspapers while on tour in Europe and North America. I remember being struck by the similarities of the stories I heard from both continents and how really only the names of the powerful and the powerless had changed - thinking, "Is this the future? Is this our future?"Some time went by, the stories wove together and I remember them now closer to characters in a dream of how people could treat each other than any kind of front-page news realism. I think music subconsciously - whether writing or listening - is a filter for me - helping to process all the bad news into something new to build from - some records to me are like self-fulfilling prophecies - visualizing change to wish something into being - those records inspired this one." - M. Ward
When one thinks of The Dream Syndicate, it's not just the wild abandon with which singer/guitarist Steve Wynn, drummer Dennis Duck, bassist Mark Walton, and lead guitarist Jason Victor perform - it's the carefully constructed songwriting of Wynn that comes to mind. By now every rock critic in the country has predetermined who he or she feels Wynn reminds them of and what they think of that style of songs. This time, don't! Which brings us to The Universe Inside. Every article or review ever written will claim "this is new and different" - well, it is! Just look at the song lengths: 20:27, 7:36, 8:56, 9:55 and 10:53. Ok, sure - the Syndicate have occasionally committed a long song to vinyl, "John Coltrane Stereo Blues" was 9 minutes with live versions over the ten-minute mark. For the first time, every song is a group songwriting effort. What seeps in are Dennis Duck's knowledge of European avant-garde music, Jason Victor's passion for 70s prog, Mark Walton's experience in Southern-fried music collectives and Wynn's love of vintage electric jazz. The dazzling display of album cover artwork alone should clue you into the changes. But don't take our word for it. Dive in!