[sic] Magazine

2018 Artists Picks – Norman Salant.

[sic] asked some of our favourite artists for their album picks of 2018. The results, as always, were sporadic and wonderful.

We hope that you enjoy this series of feature articles. You will find the lists and thoughts of the artists below as well as a sprinkling of videos from their selections.

Find out more via the link provided.

Norman Salant

As a songwriter and composer with my own music constantly going around in my head – this year alone I’ve put out two major songwriting albums (the newest, Always All Around You, was released only a week ago) and two more saxophone archive releases coming in December – I’ve tended to listen less and less to other people’s music, unfortunately, unless it forces its way in front of me or I need it simply to heal. So some of the releases here are very, very indie self-produced records by people I know (Carolann Solabello, Central Plains, Eric Wood, Rebecca Martin), a couple are big names that are always on my radar (David Byrne, John Prine, Paul Simon, John Coltrane), and a couple appeared out of the blue but were so idiosyncratic I had to stop my own brainwave and zero in on what they were doing (Little Dragon, Low). So here, in no particular order, are the ten releases in 2018 that meant the most to me.

1. Paul Simon – In The Blue Light –

Any album containing “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War” makes my best of the year automatically. Hearing a new rendition of this song is about as satisfying an experience as can be had in this world.

2. Little Dragon – Lover Chanting EP –

I once came upon one of their records by accident in a thrift store, with no awareness of their fame and no expectations, but I was enchanted nonetheless. They’re terrific practitioners of the minimalistic “less is more” approach, most notably in the gorgeously quirky restraint of the singing. The new release exemplifies this.

3. John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album –

Newly discovered takes and outtakes by the greatest saxophonist who ever lived and his landmark quartet in 1963 warrants a celebration. This music sits at the transition point a year before A Love Supreme, when everything in the jazz world definitively changed and moved into the future. For anyone who’d ever wished that there was more of that quartet to hear, this is a godsend.

4. Cat’s Out of the Bag – Hairpin Curve –

Cat’s Out of the Bag is the nom de plume of Eric Wood, the most avant garde songwriter I know. This album’s songs are set in a bossa-jazzy universe, but the lyric writing and singing are, in contrast, simply way off the charts. There’s no one out there, not in jazz or in the singer-songwriter world, who can play with time and phrasing and meaning the way Wood does. His style has evolved far beyond what anyone else is doing.

5. Rebecca Martin and Jesse Harris – Once Blue –

This newly released live set from 1996 stands up well, and displays the budding songwriting elegance of the pair back when they were a band. It’s a “before they were famous” sort of album. Rebecca eventually grew into a prominent jazz vocalist, and Jesse won a Grammy as a writer for Norah Jones’ breakthrough “Come Away With Me.”

6. David Byrne – American Utopia –

David Byrne has a way of shattering sentences into pieces, and any lyrical thread you follow ends up getting you to see things in a new way. On the surface the music seems simple and melodiously pop, but there are darker imaginings afoot.

7. Low – Double Negative –

It’s rare to find an album that contains original ideas and vision, and rarer still to find musicians who understand that music isn’t composed just of sound, but time. Space, patience and creative searching drive this album, which contains small musical nuggets that help sustain the journey. Inside it all, those sure sound like good songs.

8. John Prine – The Tree Of Forgiveness –

A songwriter is a songwriter is a songwriter. Prine’s been writing really good songs for a lot of years. If he took ten years to get to this album, it’s worth taking the time to delve into it.

9. Carolann Solabello – Shiver –

A songwriter’s songwriter, with a lovely voice to match. Her songs are personal and observant, and rich with heart and pathos.

10. Central Plains – Commuter –

This alternative indie rock band from Brooklyn is led by songwriter Nik Westman. It has a laid back semi-psychedelic feel, jangly guitars, uninflected vocals, heavy on mood with solid songs, as if it was made for repeat plays when you’re at home working.

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