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Spanspek Favorite Music of 2014: Jefferson Beavers

Good morning folks! We hope this day finds you doing well and ready for our next guest blog! Today we'll be hearing from HUGE Spanspek supporter Jefferson Beavers! Jefferson teaches journalism and film studies at Fresno City College, and serves as president of the all-volunteer cultural arts nonprofit Fresno Filmworks. He has produced sound recordings for KQED Public Radio and NPR, and formerly hosted a weekly music show on the Fresno State radio station. Take it away Jefferson!
In 2014, I bought a turntable. A real onethe kind where you have to balance the tonearm and connect it to actual speakers and a hulking receiver. Music feels and sounds better to me now coming from that stereo than it has ever since I can remember.

But 2014 is also the year that I didn't really keep up with "what's new" in music. I tried to get into the new records by Taylor Swift, Lana del Rey, FKA twigs, Charli XCX. I sampled them all for hours on Spotify, but I couldn't connect with them. I listened to the new U2 record once; I still haven't figured out how to remove the damn thing from my iPhone. I'm reading (and listening to) all the year-end tops lists right now. I can't recognize the names, and I haven't heard a lot that I like yet.

The turntable, though, is still getting a lot of work. I've made friends with Adam and Tawnya at Velouria Records in downtown Visalia, and I try to make the pilgrimmage from Fresno to see them as often as I can. (Recent bargain bin finds there: Mahalia Jackson, Flatt & Scruggs, Laura Nyro, E.L.O., and more inexpensive riches.) I participated in my first Record Store Day back in April, standing in line for more than an hour at Rasputin Records in Fresno (where the old Tower Records used to be) to pick up new re-issues of the first Joy Division EP, An Ideal for Living, and an early Everly Brothers folk record, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. And my mom and dad even gave me a giant box of their old LPs, faded and yellowing jackets still protecting eclectic gems from the Dave Clark Five, Buck Owens, Vicente Fernandez, Patsy Cline, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and too many more to mention. I'm pulling them out one by one, dusting them off and giving them new listens.

I did hear and enjoy some new music that came out in 2014. I bought a few on vinyl, and I bought a few on iTunes. It may have been the first year in 25 years that I didn't buy anything on CD. I love my Top 3 picks especially—all singer/songwriters, all womenand I've returned to them over and over again, especially on the turntable.

MY TOP 3
Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)
My musician friend Niilo Smedsa Reedley, Calif., native now living in Portland, Ore., who records these days under the moniker Dim Peaks tipped me off to Angel Olsen's winsome new record back in February, and it captivated me all year. The first single, "Hi-Five," hooked me with its warbly Hank Williams troubadour style. Her songwriting is raw and full of memory and regret, and her voice sounds like its own instrument. My new favorite.

St. Vincent
St. Vincent (Loma Vista)
I've had a crush on Annie Clark for years, and I got lucky to see her play at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, Calif., in 2013 when she was on the road with one of my musical idols, David Byrne. This new album, her fourth full-length with her band, feels like a recording from another world. It's a little electronic, a little indie, a little pop. Most of all, her whole vibe has become its own form of performance art.

Karen O
Crush Songs (Cult)
At just 26 minutes long for 15 songs, it might be tempting to think of the solo debut of the former Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman as slight. (The vinyl LP even plays on 45 rpm, instead of the usual 33 rpm for a 12-inch.) But for me, it's the opposite: This is a gapingly huge album, full of fragility, heartbreak, and discovery. New music this year from early-aughts indie heavyweights like Jack White, Julian Casablancas, Hamilton Leithauser, and Interpol all felt pretty slight to me, compared with this big little record that Karen O made.

Honorable Mentions

Beck
Morning Phase (Capitol)

Grouper
Ruins (Kranky)

Perfume Genius
Too Bright (Matador)

Sharon van Etten
Are We There (Jagjaguwar)

MY FAVORITE LOCALS

Seanario (Oakdale, Calif.)
For the Dinner Guests (Way Grimace) 
Sean Duncan cut his teeth in indie rock bands like Fiver and Kid Mud, but his latest project, Seanario, has become my favorite. In 2013, he put out a shlocky, dancefloor-ready concept album about Las Vegas. This year, he made this gorgeous electronic soundtrack that's equal parts Kevin Shields, Orbital, and early ambient Moby. 

Slow Season (Visalia, Calif.)
Mountains (Riding Easy) 
I first saw these boys perform on the floor stage inside the Orosi Memorial Hall for Spanspek 2013. Well, I shouldn't say "perform," exactly; it felt more like "assault." In a very good way. Daniel Rice, David Kent, Hayden Doyel, and Cody Tarbell pack a ton of power, groove, and rawk into their backwoods psychedelia. This latest record, their second full-length, plays like a ton of hard-hitting bricks. RIYL Neil Young, Dead Meadow, Sleepy Sun. Also RIYL to rock. 

Honorable Mention 

Sparklejet (Fresno, Calif.)
Phonovella (Narcissus)
***
Thank you Jefferson for the great picks!  We'll be back tomorrow with our last guest blogger post!  See you then!

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