Albums of the Year

I’m a huge fan of music – listening to it, not making it. With the exception of An Artist I Admire post featuring Zoe Keating, music has not enjoyed much of the spotlight here at exploring-art.com. Primarily this is because exploring-art is about investigating my less developed interests in the arts. That said, I feel the need to highlight my favourite albums of 2011.

Album of the Year: Kiss Each Other Clean

I am an Iron & Wine fan, but to me Our Endless Numbered Days stood out as the epoch of his achievement. Kiss Each Other Clean is at least on par with Our Endless Numbered Days, and it’s musically very different. It is a beautiful thing, dramatically different yet aesthetically alike. You’ll be left wondering why isn’t there more? Left wishing there were more, and yet you’ll be pleased to play it again.

Canadian Album of the Year: Land & Sea

I’ve been a long time fan of Sarah’s; I learnt of her in the early 2000’s living in Toronto, and I haven’t stopped buying her albums. With Land & Sea, an ambitious double album, Sarah shows off her spectacular vocals, as well as her meticulous compositions and arrangements. This album is one of my favourites, but why is it not at the top of the heap? Since it’s not the performance or the production, I suspect that it may be some of the lyrics that hold it back from perfection. But let’s not forget that Sarah is seen here towering over Feist for Canadian album of the year- No small achievement! For lovers of instrumental collections, I’d highly recommend Sarah Slean’s String Quartet Part II, it’s wonderful.

Underrated Album of the Year: Ceremonials

With headlines like, “More is Less”, I feel Ceremonials was unfairly treated in the press. I must admit after the single Shake it Out, the rest of the album wasn’t what I was expecting… but it grew on me, and now it’s a regular on the home stereo as well as my iPhone. With this album Florence and the Machine progress towards a sound that is more choir inspired and less modern bass line and alternative driven. The resulting sound is slightly reminiscent of the 80s, and more specifically, the Eurythmics; however, the music maintains its own identity, and more crucially, it is an evocative and enjoyable album.

Christmas Album of the year: Michael Buble Christmas

One of my wife’s nephews gets credit for this recommendation. He is a wonderful singer in his own right and performs in a number of High School ensembles. I’m not a Buble fan, so I was a bit of a skeptic. As it turns out Michael Buble Christmas is a fun, upbeat, and musical album which carries the possibility of  winning over even the biggest scrooge. Merry Christmas!

A Tribe Called Red

If your into the Canadian underground electronic scene then this is probably old news for you… but I hadn’t seen it before we were shown it in Visual Arts 150 last Tuesday… and I found it extremely interesting…

Here’s the best write up I could find on A Tribe Called Red:

http://2011.newformsfestival.com/2011/07/08/a-tribe-called-red/

A Tribe Called Red are a collective of 3 Native American DJ’s who are remixing tribal sounds and re-apporpriating western imagery of their people… In one way it’s very cool to see creative fusion like this, in another way I’m sure members of their culture, Elders in particular might not be happy about it… the term that might come up is sacrilegious… In addition I can’t help but feel concern about retransmitting imagery full of bigotry… like the uncomfortable feeling you get with Mickey Rooney’s part in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Alas the world of art has always been strewn with politics, power struggles, and angry stakeholders. Despite the fireworks of thoughts regarding what it all means, I have to say, I like it. It has a hypnotic beat, and the mashup is satisfyingly solid.

If you like it too check out their Facebook page and their Soundcloud page.

Artist I Admire: Zoe Keating

I admire Zoe Keating’s music as much as I admire her story.

I stumbled upon the music in a morning iTunes search for something new. First I found One Cello x 16: Natoma and then I quickly picked up Into the Trees as well.

What makes the music so noteworthy? It’s lyrical without words, modern yet timeless, it is a passionate, beautifully orchestrated dance of dark and light themes. More pragmatically it is one artist playing her cello into her computer multiple times and then creating wonderfully layered, complex and moving compositions.

What is her story? Passionate about the cello, professionally she went from clerk, to web programmer, to professional musician, the last of which was done without a big marketing push from a record label. She was discovered by one fan at a time through iTunes and other avenues. For more read this inspiring Mercury News article.

Spectacular!