2017, america, Best Of, favorites, list, music, Music, music mix, Best Albums

2017 | The Year In Music

A Good Year For The Veterans. But Where Were The Surprises?

Unlike 2015 and 2016, this year's list is a bit lacking in 'new music discoveries' (which is, admittedly, half the fun of sharing an 'end of year list'). Instead, 2017 was a year when some dependable artists put out really solid albums of new music (ie: Hiss Golden Messenger, Dan Auerbach, The War On Drugs, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, David Ramirez, and Cataldo). The exceptions to this generalization are the other albums stirred into the favorites list below, notably Jake Xerxes Fussell, Ana Tivel, ALA.NI, Overcoats, and Bedouine.

And although I scoured list after list of other people's 'Best Albums' of 2017, very little from those lists caught or captured my attention (I'm looking at you NPR, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, etc.), which is really disappointing because December is usually a time when I stumble upon several new artists / albums that end up becoming long term favorites. But none of the favorite 'new artists' below (those artists that are 'new to me' at least) knocked me out in the same way that Wet, Chance The Rapper, Foy Vance, and Sturgill Simpson did in 2016.

But maybe I missed some amazing 'knock-me-out' artists or albums from 2017? Perhaps you can help...please comment below and share any favorite albums from 2017 that I omitted and that I need to hear. 

Anyway, here's my list (the album names link to artist videos)...

  1. Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up
  2. Jake Xerxes Fussell, What In The Natural World
  3. Cataldo, Keepers
  4. ALA.NI, You & I
  5. Bedouine, Bedouine
  6. Hiss Golden Messenger, Hallelujah Anyhow
  7. Lillie Mae, Forever And Then Some
  8. Iron & Wine, Beast Epic
  9. The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
  10. David Ramirez, We're Not Going Anywhere
  11. Anna Tivel, Small Believer
  12. Overcoats, Young
  13. Dan Auerbach, Waiting On A Song



copenhagen, music, Interviews

The Song of The Weatherman | An Interview with Gregory Alan Isakov

All photos by Seth Nicolas

All photos by Seth Nicolas

October 31, 2014. Copenhagen, Denmark.

‘John Steinbeck would have been the best damn songwriter.’ It’s Halloween night and it’s only just warm enough to sit outside at Copenhagen’s Nameless Bar. I’m trying to get American songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov to talk about his creative process; how it is that certain ideas grow into songs and then how those songs come together as a record. But asking songwriters to describe their craft is almost always elusive, and, in the case of Isakov, the process seems to be a kind of continually evolving mystery - even to the artist himself. Isakov is sincere, he seems to truly wonder at the whole process of songwriting. And this is probably why our conversation keeps drifting away from songwriting and toward more tangible subject matter: traveling, friends back home, the sheep and honeybees on Greg’s farm, and eventually, John Steinbeck.

I meet up with Isakov in the midst of his nineteen-date European tour, where he’s playing smaller venues than he’s used to back in the US. But these intimate shows are selling out. I ask Greg, who lives on a hippie-commune-turned-working-farm in rural Colorado when he’s not touring, if he’s ever surprised to see audiences in places as far away as Sweden or The Netherlands singing along to his songs. ‘Oh yeah, it surprises me every single night. Whenever you make a record, you create this thing and then you send it out into the world, but you have no idea how people will receive it. You just hope it will connect.’

Isakov’s most recent album, The Weatherman, was released independently in 2013 to widespread acclaim. And by all accounts, The Weatherman is Isakov’s most complete record to date: thirteen songs richly woven with impressionist lyrics, lush instrumentation, pastoral restraint, and an overall tone of hope. ‘To me, the idea of a weatherman is really powerful,’ Isakov explains, ‘there’s a guy on television or on the radio telling us the future, and nobody cares. It’s this daily mundane miracle, and I think the songs I chose are about noticing the beauty in normal, everyday life.’ Replete with both earthbound and cosmological imagery, The Weatherman is a transportive record. But, as with all of Isakov’s music, the latest record still leaves, ‘plenty of space for the listener to dream.’

When we finally settle into to talking about the craft of songwriting, here’s what Greg had to say about his process, recording The Weatherman, getting over his ‘lost album,’ the unending search for ‘home,’ and, of course, Taylor Swift.

AS: Where does a Gregory Alan Isakov song come from?

GAI: ‘Man, [smiles] where does any art come from...where does a painting come from? Somewhere along the way a seed gets planted, and then I just try to get out of the way and let the song come to life - to let the idea run it’s course. A lot of the process is about identifying and then channeling the right feeling into a song. If a new song is any good, then it won’t go away; but sometimes I have to back off for a while and then come back to it. The whole process is pretty organic, and you certainly can’t force it. For example, ‘Second Chances’ (from The Weatherman) was a song that never seemed to want to be finished. I recorded it, then re-recorded, had to leave it alone for a while, and then I’d start over. But, thirteen versions later, it finally came together - the arrangement, the players, and that specific feeling I was trying to channel. But it was a serious labor of love.’

AS: Creating a cohesive album seems important to you. Can you talk about that?the

GAI: ‘That’s true. Both as an artist and a listener, I love it when a record has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think it allows the music to tell a better story. I’ve always kind of seen albums as songwriters’ gifts to the world. That’s why whenever I start recording, I try to be completely present in the process. When I’m making a record, I bleed into it. In fact, before we recorded The Weatherman, I wrote and recorded an entirely different album of songs but when it was finished, I just wasn’t satisfied. So, I destroyed those tapes and started over again.’

AS: : Do you think anyone will ever hear those ‘lost songs?’

GAI: ‘I don’t know, it’s hard to say. Maybe. But, it was like I had to get that other batch of songs out of the way in order to make room for this other album - the songs that would eventually become The Weatherman.’

AS: : NPR Music called The Weatherman ‘a rambler’s folksy manifesto.’ How does travel inspire you?

GAI: ‘Usually my songs come about with a kind of life of their own. I don’t ever set out to write a song about California or Holland, per se. But yeah, places are in there a lot. I actually wrote most of the songs for The Weatherman while on a previous tour in Europe. So, at that time, I was encountering a lot of new people and places on the road while simultaneously thinking about people and places back home. And, in a way, most of my songs are about people longing for something or someone that feels like ‘home’ to them. They’re all songs about searching.’

AS: If you could relocate someplace for an extended period of time for the sole purpose of writing songs in a new environment, where would you go?

GAI: ‘England, I think, or Scotland maybe - I’d love to settled down in some stone village that’s surrounded by green hills. Some forgotten place. I’ve been to the UK several times and I’m always surprised by it. There’s such a long tradition of songwriting and storytelling there, a lot of great folk music from Britain that I listen to.’

AS: : Are there records that never get old for you, no matter how many times you listen to them?

GAI: ‘When we were kids we listened to a lot of Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Drake, and Leonard Cohen, specifically The Songs of Leonard Cohen. And those records are still inspiring to me. More recently, Beck’s Sea Change and Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad have had a big influence (oh, and of course, every record that Taylor Swift puts out). You know, people will say that ‘every song on Tom Joad sounds the same - that it’s monotonous,’ but I like that about it - it has a continuity of feeling that draws you into it. In my opinion, that’s what makes it so timeless.’

AS: What’s a dream collaboration for you?

GAI: ‘It would be amazing to work with [producer] Glyn Johns. He’s done everything, produced everybody: Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, Band of Horses. I’d also love to work with Jolie Holland (of The Be Good Tanyas) - her voice is just perfect.’

AS: Any new projects on the horizon?

GAI: ‘Yeah, actually, I’ve been quietly at work on some low-fi rock songs. Exclusively with the electric guitar, just playing around in my kitchen. But the electric guitar is such an amazing tool - it’s fairly new to me, but it’s addictive. I’ve also been working with Brandi Carlile on a straight-ahead country record. Who knows if either will ever see the light of day or not but they’re both a lot of fun so far. I think it’s important to always be open to what could be; you have to dream, experiment, try things out.’

This interview originally appeared in Cold North Magazine. All photos by Seth Nicolas. Special thanks to Gregory Alan Isakov, his new album Gregory Alan Isakov With The Colorado Symphony is available now. 

music mix, music

10 Favorite Albums of 2015

It has been a very good year for music. Below are the ten records we have listened to the most throughout the year. Hope you find some new tunes to fall in love with (click the covers art to hear music from that album). -A&A

*These Are The Honorable Mention Albums: 

**What albums should have been on our list? We would love to hear your favorites from this year...

music, music mix, uk

An Introduction To Van Morrison

It's October 1st, which has, for some reason, always felt like the first real day of Autumn. And along with the return of woolen socks, gray skies, and pumpkin flavored everything - the Fall has also meant that it's time to return to the music of Van Morrison, whose music feels about as autumnal as any music ever could: full of nostalgic remembrance and seasonal meditation.

Last month, 'Van the Man' celebrated his 70th birthday in style, with a pair of live shows on Cypress Avenue, the Belfast street he made famous on his iconic Astral Weeks record (1968). But September was also the month that Van's entire catalogue of recordings finally arrived on Spotify. So, in honor of the turning leaves of fall and Morrison's 70th birthday, I've crafted two Spotify playlists to help you get in the true spirit of Autumn and to get more familiar with one of music's most diverse, atmospheric, and enduring songwriters. Bundle up and enjoy.

Playlist I : An Introduction to Van Morrison (more folksy, emphasis on 1970s - 1980s)

Playlist II: Van Morrison Swings (more upbeat, jazzy, emphasis on 1990s - 2010s)

music mix, music

The Wayfarer Mix No. 8 // 2014 in Review

Every January, we compile a mix of some of our favorites from the previous year's music. The 2014 Wayfarer Mix features tunes from Beck, St.Paul and the Broken Bones, PHOX, Tweedy, Hooray For the Riff Raff, Saintseneca, TV on the Radio, The Lone Bellow and many others. We hope you enjoy it and discover something new to love. Listen here.

And even though no one asked us, here are our 14 Favorite Albums from 2014:

14. Wilco What's Your 20 / 13. St. Paul & The Broken Bones Half The City / 12. Cataldo Gilded Oldies  / 11. Hiss Golden Messenger Lateness of Dancers / 10.Saintseneca Dark Arc / 09. Jenny Lewis The Voyager / 08. Noah Gunderson Ledges / 07. PHOX Self-Titled / 06. First Aid Kit Stay Gold / 05. Bahamas Bahamas Is Afie / 04. Tycho Awake / 03. The War on Drugs Lost In The Dream / 02. Andrew Bird Things Are Really Great Here, Sort of... / 01. James Vincent McMorrow Post Tropical