My thoughts and out loud thoughts on composition, performance, and many things musical.

2014 – A Bigger Palette – Year in Music

Once again, for the end of 2014, I’d like to make note of some of my favorite music that will leave a very important mark in my life.

The following, in no particular order, are musicians/albums/songs/pieces from 2014 that I would encourage others to try out.

1. Gabriel KahaneThe Ambassador

Once again, one of my biggest influences released a tremendous, beautiful album that is written around events, places, and architecture of Los Angeles. The song Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.) is based around the (true story) shooting of a young black girl in Los Angeles, and has some of the most thought-out, heart wrenching, story-telling attributes to it. The music, is enamoring, with a beautiful sort of bridge (not “bridge” as in typical song form, but rather an actual bridging/linking section) that throws the listener for another loop and arrives at the other end emotionally shaken, but still some very prepared.

That particular song resonates lately in this latter portion of 2014, with the unfortunate events the United States has had to address as a culture. A large platter of unfortunate events are always going on, all the time, but on a national level some will gain more attention than others. They should. We should be striving for positive change all the time. This song helps to at least provide some sort of solace, or at least a stillness, for me, that seems necessary at moments.

I just had to cover one of his songs, but the best version is, obviously, on his album. Just beautiful.

2. John Luther AdamsBecome Ocean

This is one of the most breathtaking orchestral pieces I’ve ever heard. Become Ocean is almost a soundscape of a giant storm, with waves crashing, thunder pounding, the pulsating of nature calming and becoming violent back and forth. The composer, John Luther Adams, had in mind the topic of nature, global warming, and really just being aware of the world and recognizing that we must take care of it. Oh, and he won the 2014 Pultizer Prize for it. Duh.

I’m not a religious fellow, but I’ll tell you what: I listen to this on Sunday mornings now, early, very early, and it just sort of calms me down.

Go give this a listen/purchase. It’s absolutely beautiful. As well, his other compositions are very meditative and capturing.

3. Steve Reich Radio Rewrite

This outstanding album comes packed with 3 pieces. The first one is Electric Counterpoint, performed by Jonny Greenwood, of Radiohead. This a 3-part, swirling path of electric guitar, live and prerecorded. This, while running,

The second piece is Piano Counterpoint, performed by Vicky Chow. This is just as beautiful as the prior, but the execution leaves you always on the edge of your seat, questioning where you’re going to go, but always just having an inkling of where that might actually be.

The third piece is the title, Radio Rewrite. This was a new piece by Reich, in which he bases it off and references Radiohead’s two songs, Everything in Its Right Place and Jigsaw Falling into Place. Sort of in the same way Radiohead’s music makes me feel, this piece is a bit dark and ambiguous at times, but somehow always crystal clear of its intentions and direction. It is very, very pretty…and I loooovvvveeee it.

4. Brooklyn RiderBrooklyn Rider Almanac

Oh heeelllll ya. Having started as a Kickstarter project, this string quartet commissioned many different compositions from musicians who do not necessarily immediately associate themselves with classical music. In the future, I will write a piece for Brooklyn Rider. That’s not a current contract, just a dream I will somehow make happen.

This album has such an enormous palette of emotion and sound. Brooklyn Rider definitely shows you that a string quartet can do whatever they want, and be awesome at it.

5. Ambrose AkinmusireThe Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint

This blog entry will still be here while you get this album.

Go get it now.

This is all the things I want to hear. It is jazz. It is classical. It is chamber-set up. It is songwriting.

Ambrose, who might consider himself more of a composer than a jazz trumpeter, gives the listener a huge set of sounds, and vastly different stories. One of my favorite songs, Our Basement (Ed), will make me weep, every time.

Why more people don’t have this album…I do not know. This is what I want my music to be relative to.

6. Nico MuhlyTwo Boys

This is an opera, Muhly’s second one (I don’t know his first), and it is quite dark. Muhly’s music always seems to captivate me and have all the points and flourishes I wish to make in my own compositions. Muhly seems to always capture every era’s music, translate it into my 20-something vernacular, and present it all as this beautifully adorned main entrée of food I’ve never tried but know will be delicious, especially in his work for larger ensembles.

I swear that makes sense in my head.

I have the music, but I wish I wish I wish I could see the production. I’m certain I’ll be able to see it in my lifetime, but for now, the music and the story are pretty much a book-on-tape for me.

7. Eli Zoller & The O’Pioneer Band

I have the pleasure of calling this guy my friend. I met him in the past 3 years in NYC and have been privileged to play music alongside him, in support of his album and music. Some time ago I played a show with him, and on my flight back to Texas his music was stuck in my head the entire time. I covered one of his songs that just kept resonating in my ears.

The great thing about Eli, is that he and I have very similar influences in acoustic music, and talking music with him, is very easy and enjoyable. Keep an eye out for him.

8. Maggie Rogers – Blood Ballet

She is songwriter’s songwriter. A persuasive poet, preferring banjo, with a captivating and robust voice meant for tugging at one’s heartstrings, every song on this album is relatable. Ohhhhh and she loves harmonies, and I love that she loves harmonies.

Again, I felt like covering one of her songs.

9. St. Vincent

Everything. Everything she does is rockin’. It was really only during this year that I swallowed up all of her music in one mass setting. She’s a killer guitarist, and everything she plays is played with a purpose. PERFORMER. She is a performer. A damn good one.  Go check out all of her music–every last drop of it. You will not be disappointed.

…I also think she is really pretty.

ALSO her uncle and aunt are TUCK & PATTI. WHAT?!?!

10. Walter Smith IIIStill Casual

Right out the gate the first track had me like

stank face 1

Or maybe it was more like

stank face 2

…anyhow…the internet is hard.

This saxophonist, wicked talented and apparently pretty funny, is also on Ambrose’s album (above).

He pretty much put a brick on the gas pedal and let this album take off. There was clearly a lot of precise work put into each piece, and one can tell that but it feels very, very natural.

This is a tremendous album. DAT SOLO in the first track??! Ayayay… Again, see the faces above.

11. yMusicBalance Problems

This is another ensemble that is becoming one of my biggest musical inspirations. They’re all such talented performers, and this album (like their former) is a load of commissions from talented musicians such as Nico Muhly, and Andrew Norman (my string god).

Son Lux (Ryan Lott) produced/mixed this album. He did the coolest thing and treated this chamber ensemble’s work and sounds with the production elements you might find in an electronic band or rock group. The way he treated each song gives a type of group like yMusic the opportunity to be on the same playing field, as far as sound production goes, as popular rock/pop groups.

12. Ryan BrewerTrails

I am also fortunate to call this musician my friend, and here is a review I wrote for his fantastic album.


The following were not 2014 releases, rather musicians/ensembles/pieces I discovered this year.


In 2015 I have an album coming out. Go to to find out more information. If I’m lucky, you’ll remember 2015 for something I had to say.

My Beautiful Beautiful Concrete Fragile Little Girl album cover

SO: What music did you enjoy this year? 

Is there something you recommend I go listen to? 

Comment below, or on Facebook, or Twitter!


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