Friday, January 2, 2015

Greatest Albums 2014

Kirk's 12 favorite albums for the year 2014.   (You will see my tastes run gospel-centric - not so much as a sound, but as the fountain of inspiration.  

This was a very good year.

Uncountable Stars: Joanne Hogg   
Longtime frontwoman for the Celtic-fusion group Iona, Joanne Hogg strays from her normal sound territory (of incredibly beautiful, delicate and somewhat melancholy chamber piano) with an offering that is at once jubilant, amorous, and even frightening.  Joanne writes with a heart saturated with the very cheer and wildness of God.  See my earlier review here.   Or sample some of her music here.  (not my favorite song, but the only one I could find.)   Or find her on Spotify here.

(Should I pick my absolute fave of the year, this would be it.)

Winnowing: Bill Mallonee 
There are just SO many adjectives you can use to describe the music of Bill Mallonee -  tender, bitter, strident, vulnerable, faithful, doubtful, deep, dark, confessional, fully alive etc - cause over the course of many years he has tapped pretty much every kind human emotion.  Even so, the Winnowing is just extra dimensional.  I love the slowed-down almost regal pace of this autumnal work.   Review here:   Or hear the album on his Bandcamp site here.

Crimson Cord: Propaganda
Propaganda was introduced to the world as spoken word artist, Now he turns his attention to dallies with sound.  Man, do I love this guy's intensity.  (Propaganda manages to work through all kinds of novel themes, from cell-phone idolatry, God's management or purpose for evil, and even white-angst in the race arena.  I have yet to write a review but you can hear Propaganda's EXcellence here, or download his music from Noisetrade here.

All Creatures: Jacob Montague
A genuine "Noise-trade" surprise.   My mind, my spirit, go absolutely bonkers with creative possibilities everytime I hear this song: In Him was Light.  (This may be my favorite song of the year.   Read my mini review here, or hear more here.

There's a Light: Liz Vice 
Liz was born almost forty years late.  Except she wasn't.  We need a glorious re-discovery of the Mo-Town sound, made all the more lovely with gospel applications.  I simply adore this woman's voice, attitude and timing.   Read my mini-review here, or hear a glorious rendition of Empty Me Out. (Then download her album here.)

Instruments of Mercy: Beautiful Eulogy
Could it be that a 55 year old white man is listening to and loving rap.  Well sorta.  Not just any rap, but I have found a special niche inside of rap, with folks like Propaganda,  Sho Baraka, and Beautiful Eulogy - who specialize in bringing outside influences (jazz, choral, chamber insturmental etc) to the medium.   Instruments of Mercy is theologically rich (Augustinian) and given to a sound that is part rap, part Oregon coast new music upright pianno-grunge.  Watch a video clip here,
Or listen to the WHOLE album here:  or download it here.

Let us Run: Arthur Wachnik
This would be my only "praise album" of the group.  (Actually not,  but in the most immediate sense) But what Wachnik does is run his praise through some kind of gypsy, zydeco, klezmer, modern music filter, that just lifts this stuff to a whole new plain.   Think of David dancing in his underwear. Or maybe not.  This stuff will make kick your heals.  Video here.  NoiseTrade download here.  Mini Review here.

Broken Gazing - Jeff Johnson (of Ark Music) 
I tried to say this somewhere else, but sometimes I think of the liturgical church as producing works of great beauty, but which are sometimes lean of passion, while the low church is given to bold dallies of the heart, but not so much to transcendent beauty.   In this album, Jeff captures all exquisite beauty of the liturgical world, and does so with the heart of a revivalist.  I couldn't find any video samples of Jeff's new album to show you, but here are two links to earlier works that catch the spirit of his music.   Watching Clouds or,  Christ has Walked this Path  But then, you can sample quite a bit right at his own site:     Or read my review here.

These are the Days: Mo Leverett
Stripped down, autumnal folk, from a man who has been through the wringer... and now thanks the friends who have journeyed with him.  I think of Mo as part pirate, part old-world Puritan, and part gash in the tent of heaven.  He is a breath of fresh air, in a world of high production-pretty music.  No new music samples for Mo, so you get this medium-new one. It's Alright.  Review Here:

VA: The Last Bison
Should I pick one band for raw sound-craft -- passionate delivery, and period costumes - The Last Bison remains my favorite Mountain-jamboree New Music band.  Ever. This family and friends operation is the band I keep waiting to be discovered.  But I guess we are going to go for one discovery at at time.   Listen to a "bad" road song here.  Or,  You can read about the time the Bison folk stayed in my home here, or read and sample music in my review of VA, here.

It's Christmas Time: Carolyn Arends
Easily my favorite Christmas album of 2014, and made all the easier because Carolyn just exudes sanctified femininity.   (She is charming, funny, thoughtful, and sentimental (in the best of ways.)       This music shimmers with old world sound craft (ie, dulcimers, banjo's and such) and packs some big thoughts along the way.   Album review here.  Other folks who agree with me here:)

20: Jars of Clay
Twenty years in the business, Jars let the fans pick their favorite songs from 10 ten albums (roughly two per album) then performed the lot in a stripped down acoustic style with hints of jazz.   This is pure melancholy ambrosia (for those who are given to such) and lets me hear words in some of these songs that I never heard before.   (I started to say something about the spiritual journey of lead singer Dan Haseltine, then scratched it.)   Suffice it to say, I have deeply appreciated Dan's transparency as he wrestles with his place in the kingdom.  There is nourishment here, even for Dan.  No review yet, but you can read what others say here.


  1. Thank you, Kirk!
    an honor...
    I greatly enjoyed our interview...
    You're a grand writer who gets inside the skin of the art...
    Winnowing received many great reviews this year. I am grateful for your kind ear and heart.
    bill mallonee

  2. Thanks for promoting this blog on the Discussion Board group, Kirk. Very interesting, and I might check on a couple of these.

    A one for one question here. First, was Ellie Holcombe's "As Sure As The Sun" released this year? If so, then why isn't that excellent album on your list?! You missed one!

    1. Thanks Jeff, I did indeed miss it. As is my music budget is now set for about 2 musical products a month... so I am sure I miss quite a bit. Years ago we had things like music stores and magazines... Now, it it largely folks like you who let me know where to look. I will certainly run to find music by Ellie, made all the better cause that is my mom's name.