Airing Saturdays at 11 am, Brown Mtn. Lights is a free form show that spans the musical horizon featuring folk, jazz, Americana, rock, early blues and beyond. We look for songs with a deep emotional impact, like the magic of nature itself.
This year, we heard many amazing releases. Now that the music world is in post-pandemic recording and touring mode, the flood of great music is postively overwhelming. We rarely repeat spins, on principle, so it was hard to narrow down this year’s most interesting records, but here are some gems that we really dig this year:
Fire! Orchestra: Echoes [Rune Grammofon]
The newest release from the mind blowing and huge [43 person] mostly Scandinavian ensemble led by saxophonist Mats Gustafsson features 80+ minutes of explosive music. Blending rock, jazz, avant garde and classical, Fire! Orchestra pulls all the punches. Free jazz legend Joe McPhee makes a submerged guest appearance on a stand-out track, I see your eye Pt. 2. Whatever you call this music…..it is thrilling and all-encompassing.
Kaze & Ikue Mori: Crustal Movement [Libra Records]
While the pandemic does seem to be in the rear view mirror, this album emerged sort of miraculously from it. Featuring 2022 MacArthur Genius recipient and no-wave and all around experimental music legend, Ikue Mori on electronics, drummer Peter Orins and pianist Satoko Fujii, this album is a sonic adventure. With sections offering incredible dynamics, space and anarchy, it’s a great testament to the abilities of these musicians to work in the challenging conditions of the pandemic to assemble these improvisations remotely into something rather amazing.
Nightbeats: Rajan [Suicide Squeeze Records]
Danny Lee “Rajan” Blackwell leads this Texan-born, Seattle-based, guitar-drenched psychedelic band on their 5th album. This one features a touch of Indian sounds blended with elements of The Seeds, early Stones and maybe a sprinkle of Graham Parsons. The Brown Mountain Lights creative crew all [1 of us] approve of this happy mix.
Josephine Foster: Domestic Sphere [Fire Records]
With a quivering voice like a theremin on a windy prairie, Foster’s music evokes the lonely landscape. Soothing but also unsettling, like a midday dream. Her newest record is very stripped down, but she fills the space with the occasional gathered sound and floating lyrics that are….well….haunting: “Darling I am a haunted house / All earthly things are snares, you see / Take the breath from my mouth / Ease the door, now let me be / For / I am a haunted house / There is no light in me ”
Hayden Pedigo: The Happiest Times I Ever Ignored [Mexican Summer]
Fans of the primitive guitar work of John Fahey or newer purveyors of the form, like William Tyler, might check out this 29 year old’s newest record. Anything from the Mexican Summer label typically catches our ears, and this one shows the incredible promise of Pedigo’s guitar work. He’s one to watch….
Desire Marea: On the Romance of Being [Mute]
South African queer performer, actor, and trained spiritual healer Buyani Duma performs under the stage name, Desire Marea. Their 2nd album employs a 13 member ensemble and combines house, gospel, Zulu tribal and so much more into an indescribable social and artistic statement. The must see and daring video to the album’s frenetic centerpiece, “Be Free” encapsulates how Desire Marea courageously represents the past, present and future of Afro-pop, and maybe just all pop.
The Nude Party: Rides On [New West Records]
Boone, NC-born, New York-based psych-folk/ country-rockers have caught an unassuming groove on their third full-length and self-produced record. What if the Velvets and the Stones took a trip into the desert with Sky Saxon behind the wheel of a 70’s shag carpeted van? Ride on…..
Bonnie Prince Billy: Keeping Secrets Will Destroy You [Drag City]
Like some kind of weird orange wine aged in an underground cask, Will Oldham’s music has a peculiar presence on the palate; invigorating with obscure floral notes, and…..just a little vinegar. His newest, and 21st record under the BPB moniker, has unforgettable lines that come straight at you like mini sermons from a front-porch prophet. Consider “Trees of Hell: “The trees have come to take back what wе took away from them / We yanked thеir roots, claimed their branches, pulled them limb from limb / We stole and violated all that would have been shared swift / We saw inherent harmony, assumed it was our gift” This is one of his best records.
Hauschka: Philanthropy [City Slang]
His newest album after winning an Oscar for the soundtrack for last year’s remake of All Quiet on the Western Front, Hauschka is Volker Bertelmann‘s prepared piano project. Getting the most out of both the percussive and string aspects of the piano, Philanthropy is a mostly positive minimalist record with titles that highlight humanity’s best attributes. My favorite is the propulsive opener, “Diversity.” An inspiring record that goes great with reading, running, walking, sitting, talking, cooking, eating, listening, etc”
Cable Ties: All Her Plans [Merge Records]
A great fist pumping record from Australia that proves that punk’s central attributes are timeless and essential. The third album from the Melbourne trio led by Jenny McKechnie features some great anthems to our most crucial issues – from mental health and addiction, to trusting others and….well….the basic need for love. Check out the great mix of angry fire and devotion in “Time for You.” This is a great band.