Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas & Bob Dylan - Tempest
There are a handful of artists whose new albums are not product to be ranked and dissected and assessed, they are new chapters -- scenes, really -- in the unfolding of my life and do not require any further justification. Even if they were objectively terrible albums (they are not!) it would be almost irrelevant 'cos me and Len and me and Bob, we are way beyond that, you know? That said Old Ideas is truly superb and as good as Tempest is, I still think Bob's towering creative achievement of the year is probably that wild Mikal Gilmore Rolling Stone interview. A bravura performance, indeed.
According to Heck of a Guy this is the best version on video of "Going Home" performed by Len on the recent European/North American tour and I trust him.
& The Rest
Le Fou -- Zachary Richard The veteran Cajun musician, poet and cultural activist has released his best album in years. The songs are often socially charged, delivered via an infectious musical stew (some songs like "La musique des anges" are positively anthemic) and his warm voice. It's basically entirely in French (I'm starting French beginner classes just after New Year at Alliance Française so check back to see if I hate it once I know what he's saying - joke!) but there are English translations on his site.
Hello Cruel World - Gretchen Peters A really stunning album I reckon. I have a fair few of her albums and I have always enjoyed them but this has really kicked things up to another level where the songs dig deeper than one expects with a real humanistic poetry all the way through, and which mesh perfectly with the beautifully executed music.
Into the Bloodstream - Archie Roach
After a difficult couple of years for Archie by any measure - the death of Ruby Hunter and his own stroke - that this work is so full of life is a joy from a human and a music point of view. The gospel choir running through works really well and Archie gets to show off a lot of range all through the record..
Speaking of Indigenous legends still gifting us with great music, Roger Knox has a record out early next year on a label that never puts a foot wrong, Bloodshot of Chicago. I heard one track on a Bloodshot sampler and I simply cannot wait for it.
El Gusto Soundtrack - Orchestre El Gusto A few years ago I randomly discovered Algerian chaabi (literally “folk”) which blends North African, Arabic and Andalusian music. At the time I read about the concerts being staged in Europe reuniting the Muslim and Jewish chaabi musicians whp played together mid-century until the war of independence meant the Pieds-Noirs (Algerians of European origin) largely left. The wonderful documentary which lead to – literally – putting the band back together showed at the Sydney Film Festival earlier this year so I was excited to get to see it. The soundtrack is fantastic, there’s something about that combination of styles which is irresistible, and being it is a real orchestra – like there are dozens of players on stage – the music has a real hard charging force that carries you along. FYI my favourite chaabi-style album is by Maurice le Medioni (who is in the film) and some Latin musicians called Descarga Oriental.
The Great Despiser - Joe Pug Joe Pug is wonderful and adorable and I love him. This album is a semi-departure in that it has a full band behind it but the same calibre of songs full of beauty and humanity.
Ooh look, an official video. Fancy.
Boys and Girls - Alabama Shakes Fantastic album of real deal rock n soul but I think they key to the Alabama Shakes might be seeing them live which happily I am scheduled to do in January when they play a (sold out) gig at the Metro in Sydney. I want to be Brittany Howard.
This One’s for Him - Various
Obligatory tribute album entry! Actually it's not obligatory since most of them are well meaning mediocrities, and while on this one also very little rises far above the originals in my mind (I admit I have an originalist prejudice for most songs) there is a comradely spirit about the project which envelopes me when I listen to it. And -- from the listener perspective -- the knowledge of long personal relationships between many of these people and Guy himself it manages to break out of the earnest sterility of most similar collections. Video is Suzy Bogguss "Instant Coffee Blues" - I'd say the best country song about a one night stand but honestly that's probably Tom T Hall "Tulsa Telephone Book", no?
Sing the Delta - Iris DeMent Geez it is just nice to have Iris back isn't it?
Everybody's Talkin' - Tedeschi Trucks Band A live album double album. Smoking.
I Like to Keep Myself in Pain - Kelly Hogan File under instant classic, file under country-soul done right, file under pour another merlot and turn down the lights and probably shed a tear.
Thankful n Thoughtful - Bettye LaVette “Everything is Broken” which opens this record is possibly the single entrant in my list of Dylan songs I actually think I prefer the cover of. I know. For that truly historic achievement it needs to go here, the rest is another highly satisfying slow burn soul powerhouse. She definitively LaVetterises "Dirty Old Town". I expect it might be polarising but I dig it. A link because they won't let me embed it grrrr.
"I'm Dreaming" - Randy Newman Randy didn't release an album this year but did make a song available for free download in time for the US election. It makes me crack up regularly. It's interesting as per this interview that as it has come to pass he now has fans in the Toy Story-age demographic that he has to explain the satire in a way he didn't with, say, Good Old Boys. The other thing Randy did this year was get elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2013. I guess since he met me last year it was the last honour he didn't already have. Grats Randy!