I haven’t done a “recent listening” post in a while, so here’s a long-ish (but not comprehensive) list of of what I’ve been listening to lately.
1) Aphex Twin – Syro… It took me a while, but I eventually stopped caring about the technique or technical difficulty of a drummer’s ideas. Instead I’m almost exclusively focused on the ideas themselves. That’s why I love programming and samplers and geniuses like Richard D James. He thinks like a drummer but isn’t limited by physical ability. His latest record is perhaps my favorite of his entire discography.
2) Blake Mills – Break Mirrors… Another thing that took me a while was the development of my appreciation for songwriting in it’s purest form. Lyrics married to melodies and chord progressions in a storytelling effort. Understatement alert: Blake Mills is a good songwriter. The drums on this record (played at least in part by Stuart Johnson) are also pretty interesting, and after a little digging I discovered that they were recorded LAST… meaning, without click and without influencing the rest of the instruments and their respective performances. Listening to this record with that in mind has taught me a lot.
3) Dawes – North Hills… More great songwriting from Taylor Goldsmith, a former bandmate of Blake Mills. His brother Griffin plays drums… AND SINGS. Dang it. I hate it when drummers play and sing and do both really musically. I mean, I love it, I just wish I could sing too.
4) Ryan Adams – Self-titled… This is my second favorite record from 2014. I love everything about this album, especially Jeremy Stacey’s hihat sound.
5) Christina Courtin – Self-titled… I had the pleasure and privilege of spending my summer touring and performing with Christina in the Sara Bareilles band. She plays violin like an angel and sings like a badass (visible in my latest DrumCam vid), and she also writes songs and fronts her own band in NYC. Oh and no big deal but Jim Keltner plays drums on her record.
6) Dexter Gordon – Go!… I’m rekindling my love for jazz in 2015. It’s fascinating to go back through records that I’ve listened to a ton but not for a long time. Billy Higgins on this particular record is taking me to SCHOOL, not to mention Dexter Gordon’s incredible tone on the tenor.
7) Civil Wars – Self-titled… Aaron Sterling does a masterful job of putting groove behind a categorical acoustic singer-songwriter duo, and producer Charlie Peacock does a masterful job of settling Sterling’s parts and sounds into the mix. Also noteworthy on this record: A beautifully creative reworking of Billy Corgan’s ballad “Disarm,” complete with a very effective time signature shift from 4/4 to 6/8.
8) D’Angelo – Black Messiah… My entire face blew up when this album dropped out of nowhere a few weeks ago. I listened to it 5 times every day for a week straight, not because I thought such saturated listening was a good idea but because I just couldn’t help it. My absolute favorite record of 2014, a total masterpiece, and a DEEP lesson in groove.
9) Emily King – Seven EP… Emily was the opening artist on the Blessed Unrest Tour, and hearing her every night was one of my favorite parts about the tour. This EP is inspiring and grooving and subtle and sexy and a perfect bull’s eye for her sound. Her live drummer James Williams is a BOSS, but interestingly enough, all the drums on this EP are programmed… and the tones are incredible.
10) Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian… This trio album featuring three of my favorite musicians reveals something new every time I listen to it. Paul Motian plays brilliantly on these tracks, and all three of these guys are such amazing listeners. They improvise with the same attention to detail that I hear in carefully produced electronica (like the above-mentioned Aphex record).
11) Dave Barnes – Golden Days… Paul Mabury on drums. Man, I mean I’ll listen to ANYTHING that he plays on and end up really enjoying it. Not that Barnes’ latest record is a disappointment on some level outside of the drums, but the thing I keep coming back to on this album is Paul’s pocket and ideas. Noteworthy: Really creative use of subtle but effective “organic” drumkit loop overdubbing.
12) U2 – Songs Of Innocence… The backlash that U2 received for giving away their record still blows my mind. Haha. I loved it! I loved seeing that they had a new record and then realizing that it was already in my iTunes. I also enjoy all these tunes, Bono’s voice, and Edge’s guitar parts. I usually don’t relate super closely with Larry Mullen’s drumming, and this album is no exception, but I do really like the minimal sonic role that the drums play in the mix. These days it’s almost fatiguing how often I hear mixes with drums compressed and boosted to the point of drowning out the vocalist. Larry’s playing works directly alongside the way it sits in the whole mix in a way that really helps the song and I can’t argue with that.