In a year that brought unprecedented attention to St. Louis, we're blessed to have musicians who tell the city's story from a variety of angles and in a whole host of styles. This list, culled from albums reviewed for the weekly Homespun column and listed alphabetically, represents an evolving scene filled with restless creative talents. Some are long-awaited albums from long-time favorites; some are relatively new projects from multifaceted artists. As always, some are new faces staking their claim.
Solstice Part 2 (Dreams from a Snow Globe)
Con (Northside native Malcolm Chandler) operates within Muhammad Austin's MME crew, a stable of young, progressive lyricists who favor syrupy grooves and stuttered beats as their sparse but evocative palette. Chopped-up soul breakdowns become the background to "Reefer-bish," Con's most fluid track, while an ever-apt Shuggie Otis groove gets tricky on "$0Fall." Austin (a.k.a. Mvstermind), whose 2013 release A.D.D. (Artistically Day Dreaming) was a standout, provides engineering help and guest vocals on a few songs, including atmospheric closing track "ChillTrill." Taken alongside the other offerings from the MME collective, Con shows that he can hold his own on Solstice Part 2 while using the best talents of his friends to create a trippy, psych-soul experience.
In the three years of Demon Lover's existence, the band has taken pop-centric experimentalism not only as permission to muck about with a variety of styles, but also to exert some kind of mastery over them. The light-touch, melodica-driven dub of "3500 Spring"/ "Annie Got Mad" would sound like some white-dread Venice Café nightmare in any other context. But coming between gibberish boogaloo "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" (not an ODB cover, sadly) and the crust punk/nursery rhyme mashup "Counterattack!!" leaves the song sequence seemingly random but, at least, consistently incoherent. That Demon Lover is only physically releasing Moody Future on cassette (alongside streaming/digital) suggests a stylistic fluidity between, and often within, tracks.
The Feed prides itself on being hard to pin down — and these nine songs don't offer one set path — but Outsider is sequenced to deliver the swiftest, most rock-oriented songs early on. "Celestial Ceiling" is a falsetto-driven piece of glammy New Wave that smartly starts the LP with the band's least typical song — the stops and starts offer white space where other songs in the band's catalog can feel overstuffed. The LP's second half gives the band room to stretch; the slow-growing thrum of "Everybody Wants You" shows the band's psychedelic strain, while the initially manic "Victim" builds to a staccato breakdown that displays the players' jazz chops.
Jon Hardy & the Public
Since 2007's Working in Love, Jon Hardy & the Public has been content to release music in four-song spurts alongside the odd digital release; with Restless City, it's clear that Hardy was holding off on putting out another album until he had an obvious, coherent series of songs that skirted around a single theme. This time, Hardy turns his new set of songs outward to examine a world simply working to survive. Each verse in opening song "Something's Gotta Give" details a few characters' fiscal woes — stock-market crashes, medical bills, bankrupt pensions — without rancor or pity. Instead, the song sets the scene for what follows on the rest of the album: up-close portraits of struggle that seem to be lightened only by flashes of love, friendship and mercy.
Follow through for more great music released in 2014.