I, for one, completely disbelieve that “rock is dead” or almost dead. Many folks I could care less about believe this, and many folks I think the world of believe it as well. I just can’t accept it.
If rock—or what passes as rock—has been so commercialized and corporatized to die because the huge companies don’t know how to sell, promote, and market a band or singer any more, too bad and tough luck. My guess is that that band or singer lost its or her or his soul long, long ago. Too bad by far. If rock is corporatized, it’s really not rock.
And, frankly, I hope Rolling Stone and NME each die a quick death. They were never more than glossy catalogues anyway. They wanted conformity, not excellence. In their pretense to fight the Establishment, they were the Establishment. I could start citing Marshall McLuhan and Noam Chomsky here—two thinkers I admire immensely—but it’s not the intent of this post. Despite my nasty introduction, this is meant to be a post of celebration.
The Incredible and the Magnificent of 2014. Where to even start? So much amazing music came out this year. So very, very far from dead. Not even close.
In no particular order (except for what I consider the absolute best-est of the year).
North Atlantic Oscillation, THE THIRD DAY. I don’t think it would be possible for these guys to disappoint. It’s obvious they put everything they have into the very structure and fabric of their music. While I probably still prefer the more Mark Hollis-esque FOG ATLANTIC, The Third Day really offers some electronic beauty.
The Black Vines, RETURN OF THE SPLENDID BASTARDS. Doubting my claim that rock is very much alive? Pop this baby into the CD player, and I give you Exhibit A of how great and alive rock is. Schnikees, this baby rocks. This rocks like rock should. Clever, intense, and driving.
The Ben Cameron Project, TIPPING POINT. Only two tracks long, TIPPING POINT is one of the most interesting and traditionally proggish of all prog this year. An album is integrity and beauty. You have to immerse yourself in this one. You’ll be well rewarded for doing so.
Jason Rubenstein, NEW METAL FROM OLD BOXES. Talk about putting the “progressive” in progressive rock. No, not the Woodrow Wilson kind of progressive. The real kind—the kind that does actually advance something. Rubenstein is a genius, and his music shows just how much creativity and glory one person can offer in this rather tragic world. This is the soundtrack to every Dirty Harry movie that mattered, but presented with 2014 technology and sensibilities.
Galahad, 3 EPS. Who wouldn’t love Stu Nicholson? God made the man for us all to love and admire. Here, he takes prog toward House music. This is highly danceable prog, and yet it maintains that high intelligence that Galahad has always brought to music. There’s nothing really new, just new ways of looking at old things. A great success.
Glass Hammer, ODE TO ECHO. Again, who wouldn’t love Steve Babb? The guy radiates charisma. This outing sees Glass Hammer turn toward the mythic and the pagan. While generally open about faith, GH follows the path of C.S. Lewis, noting that the Christian is also the pagan, at least in his or her imagination. The bass thumps, the drums rock (phew!), the vocals soar, as do the keyboards and the guitars.
And, the adventure continues in Part III. . . .