There are two pieces of copier paper with more than sixty artist and band names hand-written on them staring at me. My scrawl occassionally stumbles with lines redrawn, some letters emboldened when I paused and fixated on them or obscured when I sped through to catch up to the next name in mind. There are two pieces of paper because they were made two weeks apart, from two worlds of music representing songs I would play by day or, for the most part, leave to others to play at night. They stare at me and push the needle of cognition into the red. They are my notes on favorite music releases of 2014, and they are the subject matter of my personal final exam for the year. They're still written in English, still legible, but they look a lot like foreign code right now.
I play music for a living as midday host at public radio station WNCW where, like most everyone working in media today, I wear many hats. One of those is programming our overnight music mix, which brings with it mail crates and inboxes full of music to listen to. Usually there are dozens of EPs, albums and singles to review, and there is never enough time to listen to everything all the way through, even the best music. I play a song, scan through to another, perhaps letting a tune hold me for all of its three or four minutes before making the call to put it in one of three categories: Yes, No or Maybe. It's more highlight reel than whole game, more ingredient list than entree, more storyboard than feature film. This part of the job is mostly lather, rinse and repeat: I'm always getting ready but never seem to go out on the town.
When I do get to take the top down to cruise for a few hours on the airwaves, I'm pumping out a largely different set of jams. The Americana, roots and AAA music mix that we feature on weekdays might spin Robyn Hitchcock but not Half Japanese; it will play Lake Street Dive but shy away from Emma Ruth Rundle. The former artists are the ones I become most familiar with, the latter I would like to spend more time with but mostly can't. Thus I have these two pieces of paper, and wonder if they shall remain separate or merge into a kind of new nation of music. Do I keep my peas and corn all to themselves on the plate, or do I throw everything into the pot for a dish of song surprise?
Before I make a year-end list, here are the contenders, in alphabetical order:
Day (*=also played heavily at night) : Aaron Burdett, Budos Band*, Robert Ellis, GOASTT*, Ben & Ellen Harper, Hiss Golden Messenger, I Draw Slow, Lake Street Dive, Reigning Sound, Miles Tackett, Nick Waterhouse
Night: Alvvays, Marco Benevento, Benjamin Booker, Broncho, Celebration, Cherry Glazerr, Cibo Matto, Debruit and Alsarah, Mac Demarco, Doc Aquatic, Dom La Nena, Donkeys, El May, Emma Ruth Rundle, Faces On Film, Flying Lotus, Foxygen, Gemma Ray, Growlers, Half Japanese, Homeboy Sandman, Is/Is, Iska Dhaaf, Jim-E Stack, Majestico, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Bob Mould, Kevin Morby, Mr. Scruff, New Madrid, Angel Olsen, Parquet Courts, Pink Mountaintops, Quilt, Xavi Reija, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Laetitia Sadier, Ty Segall, Slow Club, Soft Shadows, Swans, Temples, Thee Oh Sees, Timber Timbre, Tijuana Panthers, Trans Am, Sharon Van Etten, Vertical Scratchers, Mirel Wagner
And now to figure out what makes the cut, how much of a cut and what kind of cut to make: top ten, top thirty? A weighted list like Pazz & Jop? Stay tuned and for the results in my next post. -Joe Kendrick