I have three favorite songs of 2014.
The first is “Palm Wine Drunkard” by Jolie Holland from her album Wine Dark Sea. The songs on Wine Dark Sea are all in a state of decay, barely holding together and about to collapse. And Holland’s vocals match the music. It is truly a wonderful thing. Loose does not begin to describe what is going on here.
For a moment, let’s get literary. The title of the song, “Palm Wine Drunkard”, is a nod to Amos Tutuola’s 1952 novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard–which is apparently a classic of African literature. The title of the album, Wine Dark Sea, is a nod to the Odyssey and the Iliad in which “wine-dark sea” describes the waters around Crete. The lyrics of “Palm Wine Drunkard” contain a nod to Heraclitus:
And then I kissed all my diamonds
I got my hands on the dice
And I screamed and I raved and I begged and I prayed
I could step into that river twice
Who has not wanted a second chance, begging and praying to step into the river twice?
My second favorite song of 2014 is “A Simple Design” by The Juan MacLean from the album In a Dream.
With the retirement of LCD Soundsystem I was looking for music to recreate for me the LCD Soundsystem experience–something close to LCD Soundsystem. This was a mission fraught with risk; electronic music can be really really bad. I stumbled onto John MacLean who performs as The Juan MacLean.
The Juan MacLean seemed like a good prospect. MacLean records on James Murphy’s record label–DFA Records. (Murphy led LCD Soundsystem.) And MacLean had hired Nancy Whang (a member of LCD Soundsystem) to do vocals for In a Dream.
Alas, “A Simple Design” is not LCD Soundsystem. (It lacks the spontaneity and force of and LCD Soundsystem song.) But I like it well enough–particularly this lyric:
Time after time, when what you’re hoping to find
Is not a simple design, but a headache
When everything you’ve built comes falling down
“A Simple Design” reminds me of San Francisco. While on a business trip, I downloaded the album before a long (pre-St. George marathon) run. While listening to The Juan MacLean, I ran from my downtown hotel to the Marin Headlands across the Golden Gate Bridge.
My third favorite song of 2014 is “Knock Knock Knock” by Spoon from the album They Want My Soul. “Knock Knock Knock” has some of the discordant, distorted guitar riffs that I love.
And it has whistling!