End of Year List, Music, Under the Radar

LJR Music’s Best of 2014 – The Under The Radar List

These are my favorite overlooked albums of 2014.

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Slow PhaserNicole Atkins – Slow Phaser 

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • From – New Jersey, North Carolina, New York City
  • Fav Track – It’s Only Chemistry, Red Ropes
  • Recommended Tracks – Who Killed the Moonlight?, It’s Only Chemistry, Girl You Look Amazing, Cool People, We Wait Too Long, Red Ropes, Gasoline Bride, The Worst Hangover

The juxtaposition of Atkins soaring voice with frank lyrics like, “you’ve lost your mind” and “I’m always naked in my mind” hooked me.  You’ll find the odd combination of bluegrass-inspired finger picking and disco beats on this album, but you won’t be bored or disappointed. Atkins’ style reminds me of Neko Case and Norah Jones.

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PhysiquesPeople Get Ready – Physiques

  • Genre – Experimental Pop
  • From – Brooklyn, NY
  • Fav Tracks – Rainbow, Physiques, Jealousy, Soooooon
  • Recommended Tracks – Rainbow, Physiques, Jealousy, Soooooon, Crueller, Aquarium Date, Hot Fruit

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comet come to meMeshell Ndegeocello – Comet, Come to Me

  • Genre – Alt R&B
  • From – Virginia; Washington D.C.; New York City
  • Fav Tracks – Good Day Bad, Forget My name, Comet, Come To Me, Conviction, Tom
  • Recommended Tracks – Good Day Bad, Forget My name, Comet, Come To Me, Conviction, Tom, Continuous Performance, Shopping For Jazz, Foile A Deux, Modern Time

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Wonder Where We LandSBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land

  • Genre – Alternative Dance
  • From – London
  • Fav Tracks – NEW DORP NEW YORK, The Light
  • Recommended Tracks –  NEW DORP NEW YORK, The Light, Temporary View, Problem (Solved), Gon Stay, Higher

Collaboration is the successful method to his madness for masked producer Aaron Jerome (this album features Jessie Ware, Ezra Koenig, Sampha and A$AP Ferg).

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Changing LightMirah – Changing Light

  • Genre – Singer-songwriter
  • From – Philadelphia, PA; Olympia, WA; Brooklyn, NY
  • Fav Tracks – Oxen Hope, I Am the Garden, Radiomind, 24th St
  • Recommended Tracks – Goat Shepherd, Oxen Hope, Gold Rush, Fleetfoot Ghost, I Am the Garden, No Direction Home, 24th St, Radiomind

Mirah has been a fixture on the alternative singer-songwriter scene for over a decade. Changing Light (along with seemingly most others this year) is a break up album. This year sure is developing into a somber one on the indie music scene. The album is very lush with horns, strings, woodwinds, & vibraphone in addition to the standard singer-songwriter staple instrumentation.

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River and the ThreadRosanne Cash – The River & The Thread

  • Genre – Country, Folk, Singer-Songwriter
  • From – Tennessee, California, New York City, NY
  • Fav Track – Money Road
  • Recommended Tracks – A Feather’s Not A Bird, Modern Blue, The Long Way Home, Money Road, Biloxi

Cash used a road trip across Southern states as her muse for this album.  The album cover picture was taken on the Tallahatchie bridge of “Ode to Billie Joe” fame. Cash explains the importance of her road trip in the creation of this album with Rolling Stone and CBS Sunday Morning.

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9 Dead AliveRodrigo y Gabriela – 9 Dead Alive

  • Genre – Latin Guitar Instrumental
  • From – Mexico
  • Fav Tracks – The Soundmaker, Torito, The Russian Messenger
  • Recommended Tracks – The Soundmaker, Torito, The Russian Messenger, Misty Moses, Sunday Neurosis

Here’s another fantastic offering of heart pounding, rock-infused latin guitar dueling from Rodrigo y Gabriela. Watch then play a track live at NPR Music.

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BluebirdDawn Landes – Bluebird 

  • Genre – Indie Folk Rock, Alt Country, Singer-Songwriter
  • From – Louisville, New York City
  • Fav Track – Cry No More
  • Recommended Tracks – Bluebird, Try to Make a Fire Burn Again, Bloodhound, Cry No More, Oh Brother, Diamond Rivers, Love Song, Home

Bluebird is an emotionally exposed album created in the wake of Landes’ divorce from fellow singer-songwriter, Josh RitterNorah Jones lends a hand on two stand out tracks, “Cry No More” and “Love Song.”

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Fever In the RoadThe Bamboos – Fever In The Road

  • Genre – Neo-Funk/Soul
  • From – Melbourne, Australia
  • Fav Tracks – Avenger, Helpless Blues, Your Lovin’ Is Easy
  • Recommended Tracks – Avenger, Helpless Blues, Your Lovin’ Is Easy, Rats, Leave Nothing Behind, Harbinger, Jump My Train, Looking West

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Sound MirrorSyd Arthur – Sound Mirror

  • Genre – British Progressive Psych Rock
  • From – Canterbury, England
  • Fav Tracks – Garden of Time, Hometown Blues, Backwardstepping, What’s Your Secret
  • Recommended Tracks – Garden Of Time, Hometown Blues, Autograph, What’s Your Secret, All And Everything, Forevermore, Backwardstepping, Chariots, Singularity, Sink Hole
  • Singles – Hometown Blues, Garden Of Time

In this sub genre , you can expect to hear classical and jazz influences as well is unusual time signatures. This four-piece band that expertly walks the fine line between dipping into the been-there-done-that bin of retro/revivalism and the making a album that is intriguing and contemporary.

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Simone FeliceSimone Felice – Strangers

  • Genre – Singer-songwriter, Alt Country, Americana
  • From – Upstate New York
  • Fav Track – If You Go To L.A.
  • Recommended Tracks – Molly-O!, If You Go To L.A., Running Through My Head, Bye Bye Palenville, Gettysburg, Bastille Day, The Gallows

Simone Felice is a published poet, novelist and musician who has had not one, but two brushes with death.  As a preteen, he suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) that required an emergency craniotomy (open skull surgery) and a long rehabilitation to regain basic motor skills including reading and writing. As an adult, he again experienced a life-threatening condition in the form of severe aortic heart valve stenosis that required open-heart surgery. Strangers is a solo project, but Simone has also made music with his brothers (The Felice Brothers), The Avett Brothers (drums), a in a duo called The Duke & the King.

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Belle BrigadeThe Belle Brigade – Just Because

  • Genre – Indie Pop
  • From – Los Angeles, CA
  • Fav Track – I Miss You In My Life
  • Recommended Tracks – Ashes, When Everything Was What It Was, Likely, To Use Something, Be Like Him, Miss You In My Life, How I See it, Everything For A Stone, Back Where You Began

The Gruska siblings bring together the best aspects of power popsoft rock, and Californian-style psychedelic folk rock for a Fleetwood Mac/Simon and Garfunkel/Paul McCartney meets Vampire Weekend/Tegan and Sara/The Head and the Heart kind of experience.

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