It’s that time of year again: Trees being decorated, candles being lit, balls being dropped, and, of course, year-end top ten lists. You love ’em, you hate ’em but no publication worthy of the name is without them. So here is mine. There were many great records of modern guitar released this year (read about them in the various Record picks posts) but these are the ones that found their way most often to my virtual turntable.
Radian On Dark Silent Off [Thrill Jockey]
Radian, Martin Brandlmayr (drums, electronics), John Norman (bass), and Martin Siewert (guitars, electronics), create tightly knit tracks that integrate noise into the rhythms and themes for a record and a band that sounds like nothing or no one else.
Daniel Lanois Goodbye To Language [Anti] Constructed entirely from the sounds of Lanois’ pedal steel guitar and Rocco Deluca’s lap steel, this record moves beyond Roots Moderne into an ambient masterpiece fueled by the Lanois studio magic.
Stian Westerhus Amputation [House of Mythology] Amputation is as epic as one would expect from this master of modern guitar tones. Universes are created and destroyed on Westerhus’ return to solo recording.
Mike Bagetta Spectre [FSNT] Mike Baggetta joins Jerome Harris on acoustic bass guitar and Billy Mintz on drums for an improv fest that seamlessly incorporates multiple guitar styles, cool vibrato arm work, and looping.
Mary Halvorson & Noël Akchoté Mary Halvorson & Noël Akchoté [Noël Akchoté] An obvious affinity is evident throughout this performance of 20 largely full-length improvised duets. Rivals the recent Julian Lage/Nels Cline duo for sheer joyful music making.
Tim Brady Instruments of Happiness: Electric Guitar Quartet [Starkland Records]
Guitarists Tim Brady, Gary Schwartz, Michel Héroux, and Antoine Berthiaume play new chamber music for electric guitars with works by Tim Brady, Antoine Berthiaume and Rainer Wiens.
Nels Cline/Henry Kaiser/Jim Thomas/Weasel Walter/Allen Whitman Jazz Free [Fractal] Whitman and Thomas, two members of the legendary psychedelic San Franciso surf band Mermen, and two modern guitar legends join forces with drummer Walter for a modern guitar event extraordinaire.
Arbeit Schickert Schneider Ass [Bureau B] A summit where three generations of renowned Berlin guitarists, Günter Schickert, Jochen Arbeit, and Dirk Dresselhaus, combine and transcend their influences.
Bushman’s Revenge Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen [Rune Grammofon] Even Helte Hermansen continues to evoke Sonny Sharrock, Terje Rypdal, Scofield, and a host of others in a style fully his own. Gone are the keyboards of Thou Shalt Boogie, allowing the full range of his evocative tone to shine through in the group’s original trio format.
Julian Lage Arclight/Live in Los Angeles [iTunes] What’s modern about Julian Lage? He is willing to take the music anywhere it wants to go—and he can. On LILA, the Arclight trio of Lage with Kenny Wollenson and Scott Colley ranges from virtuosic readings of standards like “When I Fall In Love” to the kind of outside, noisy playing Lage revealed in his duos with Nels Cline. The live EP pushes the envelope more than the studio Arclight released earlier this year, but both are must haves for anyone who loves guitar.