Bradley's Almanac

[Nac Faves] My Favorite LPs of 2014

Posted on December 31, 2014 at 9:09 pm | 3 Comments

Close the book on another year, an unsettling one that won’t be missed by too many people I know. Myself included. Burn the old calendar, hang up the new one, shoot for some fresh starts and better perspectives. Hope may have been in short supply in 2014, but new-music-as-antidote sure wasn’t, so here are the long-players that made me feel better over the past 12 months.

As in previous years, it’s 20-ish favorite full-lengths in alphabetical order, along with some honorable mentions. I’ve never been a fan of relative ranking, nor whittling down to an arbitrary number, so don’t go arguing with me – I’m not saying these are the best, I’m saying they’re my favorites. Can’t argue with that. I’ll hopefully follow this up in a few days with a run down of some EPs, 7-inches, reissues, and live shows that stood out above the rest.


(the star of The Daily Tater)

Remarkably, I believe this was the first time in 14 years of keeping track that every single album I adored was available on vinyl. Makes me very happy, that does. What didn’t change was my predictable label-loyalty: Merge, Slumberland, Polyvinyl, Teen-Beat, Captured Tracks, all represented. As they probably will be next year. If we’re lucky.


My Favorite Music of 2014


Allo Darlin’“We Come From The Same Place”
[ on Slumberland Records ]

Another shining indie pop gem from these Londoners, and the soundtrack to a couple of very special nights this year, when the band I’m in got to open the final two dates of their month-long North American tour. To hear their new songs live in two very different venues was a real treat, and something I won’t soon forget.

Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Slumberland


Alvvaysself-titled debut LP
[ on Polyvinyl Records ]

Okay, I’m going to try real hard not to gush here, but hyperbole is hard to resist: Toronto quintet Alvvays has crafted an absolutely stunning debut, one that captures everything I love about indie pop-rock: Infectious, uplifting guitar lines intertwined with gorgeous, often melancholy vocals that hit me straight in the heart. Molly Rankin’s melodies get lodged in your brain and linger for days, and even as I write this the songs are bouncing ’round my head. Perfect production and song arrangement, a remarkable attention to sonic detail, and dynamics that never feel forced. I love everything about this record, I could go on and on and on, but I’ll pick out one moment: There’s a spot near the end of “Party Police“, the album’s 5th track, where the band drops out and Rankin slightly alters the delivery of a repeated vocal line, hitting a higher note on the word ‘could’ just before the band comes back in. With that one choice, my band-crush was sealed. I’m a fan, forever.

Archie, Marry Me” = song-of-the-year candidate.

Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Polyvinyl


David Bazan & Passenger String Quartet“Volume 1”
[ on Undertow ]

I’ve said it many times, might as well say it again here: I’m such a sucker for strings. So it’s no surprise that stripping down some of David Bazan’s best songs and rebuilding them with beautiful arrangements from the Passenger String Quartet resulted in a record I loved. Two opportunities to see them played live (first at Barsuk’s 2013 anniversary bash in Seattle, again a few months back in Arlington, MA) only deepened that love, so here’s hoping the “Volume 1” designation means we’ll be seeing a 2nd one.


(live version from July 27, 2012 at Cathedrals: Tacoma)

Stream and purchase at Undertow


Centro-matic“Take Pride In Your Long Odds”
[ on Undertow ]

A bittersweet release, marking the end of recorded output from one of my favorite bands. These Texas gents decided to pack it in this year, recently finishing up a cross-country farewell tour with some undoubtedly emotional hometown shows. Lucky for us, one of those goodbye stops was here at Great Scott in Allston, and it was glorious. They played a few songs from this record, and they stood solidly alongside their best. Leaving the stage on the highest of high notes, they’ll be much-missed, but hey, we’ll always have the records. For that, be grateful, and keep an eye on their individual musical endeavors.

Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Undertow


Cheatahsself-titled debut LP
[ on Wichita Recordings ]

Calling them the ‘second coming of Swervedriver’ feels reductive, especially when Swervedriver themselves are readying a resurgence in 2015, but there’s no denying that they strike many of the same distorted chords. Cheatahs hit the harder side of the shoegaze wheelhouse, more rock than reverie, and I figure there’s not a lot of gazing at their shoes on stage. I missed my chance to see them live in 2014, not gonna let that happen again in the new year.

Stream at Purevolume / Buy at Wichita Recordings


Craft Spells“Nausea”
[ on Captured Tracks ]

A perfectly-placed next step for Justin Paul Vallesteros and his band, retaining the layered dreaminess that makes them so entrancing while widening their sonic palette just enough to surprise. Their songs transport, especially in a live setting, and I’m so glad it’s happening again very soon: In mid-March at Great Scott.

Stream more at Soundcloud / Buy at Captured Tracks


Ex Hex“Rips”
[ on Merge Records ]

Oh, Mary Timony, please never stop. From Autoclave, to Helium, through her solo work (just her on piano, guitar, then as a duo), she’s kept on keepin’ on for a couple decades now. Her full-band, rock-n-roll return with Wild Flag kicked off an exciting chapter in her career that ended (?) all too soon, and I was worried she’d retreat and regroup. She squashed those fears quickly with a couple of exciting Soundcloud shares as newly-christened trio Ex Hex – songs that got ’em signed to Merge and on the way to this energy-infused full-length. Retro and right-now all at once, their success bodes well for a nice long run. Fingers crossed this riff-filled record is just the first salvo.

Stream another track at Soundcloud / Buy at Merge Records


Exit/Verseself-titled debut
[ on Ernest Jenning Record Co. ]

The welcome return of former Karate/Secret Stars singer/songwriter Geoff Farina to a full-band scenario, bringing along a couple of ringers on rhythm (Pete Croke of Brokeback on bass, John Dugan of Chisel on drums) to make these new songs shine. There’s a raw, undeniable classic rock feel that just clicks, resulting in a timeless set that even your dad could love (yes, my actual Dad loves it). That ain’t an insult, my Dad’s got some damn good taste.

Stream full LP at Soundcloud / Buy at Ernest Jenning Record Co.


Gold-Bears“Dalliance”
[ on Slumberland Records ]

Yet another ace Slumberland release. Exuberant, energetic jangle-pop out of Atlanta – an American answer to the Wedding Present (the album is called “Dalliance” after all) that exceeds mere homage. Had the distinct pleasure of catching these guys at the Middlesex Lounge (RIP live shows at the Middlesex, btw) over the summer, hoping I get another shot soon.

Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Slumberland


Hallelujah the Hills“Have You Ever Done Something Evil?”
[ on Discrete Pageantry Records ]

Oh, Hallelujah the Hills, how shall I praise thee? Two years after releasing what I called “their best album to date”, these local gents went ahead and upped the ante, by a major margin. “HYEDSE?” is easily their strongest, most confident collection of songs, and given how much I’ve loved the rest, that’s saying something. Just over a year ago I drove solo down to Plymouth, MA to see ’em play an AGP charity show with Krill and Guillermo Sexo, hearing many of the songs that would end up on “HYEDSE” for the first time. It was “Pick Up An Old Phone” that stood out, making me hanker for a recorded version ASAP. In May, they damn well delivered.

[MP3] Hallelujah the Hills – “Pick Up An Old Phone
(live in Plymouth, MA 12/7/2013)

Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Discrete Pageantry


The Luxembourg Signalself-titled debut
[ on Shelflife Records ]

Sporting an impressive pedigree (with members of Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars), this LA-based sextet debuted with a stellar set of Sarah-Records-inspired dreampop, hitting a wealth of right notes in the shimmer-spectrum while weaving in a welcome variety of other influences. A record that took me by surprise in the best way. Another candidate for “song of the year”: “She Love To Feel The Sun“.

Buy at Shelflife Records


The New Pornographers“Brill Bruisers”
[ on Matador Records ]

Calling this a ‘return to form’ seems silly, given I’ve found something to love about every New Pornos record, but it sure feels like a distillation of everything that makes them great. But there is definitely an abundance of energy in “Brill Bruisers” that almost begs a reevaluation of the couple LPs prior. It sounds like they’re just having fun on this album, and it’s infectious.

Buy at Matador Records


+/- {Plus/Minus}“Jumping The Tracks”
[ on Teenbeat Records ]

Released in January, and criminally overlooked in the best-of-year posts I’ve seen so far, the long-in-the-making album hooked me straight away, immediately setting a high bar for 2014 out of the gate. It stayed in my headphones for weeks, revealing its depths while waiting for another LP to dislodge it. A melding of darkness and light, both beautiful and unsettling at once, buoyed by hook-laden guitar playing and absolutely meticulous production. And, oh, that drumming. I bow down to you, Chris Deaner. If there was one record that defined the year for me, this is it, and I hope the turn of the calendar sees them playing a few more live shows.

Stream the LP (with bonus tracks) at Soundcloud / Purchase from Teenbeat Records


Real Estate“Atlas”
[ on the Domino Record Co. ]

Real Estate’s third record took more time than expected to get under my skin, certainly longer than 2011’s “Days” did. While it wasn’t immediate as its predecessor, the extra listening effort paid off, and their show at the Sinclair in March had the new songs standing solidly among the rest.

Stream songs at Soundcloud / Buy from Domino


Shellac“Dude Incredible”
[ on the Touch & Go Records ]

Another abrasive, body-rattling smack upside the skull from the Chicago’s no-bullshit trio. There’s no band on Earth like the mighty Shellac, and there’s no point in anyone else even trying. They strip away the artifice of the record-producing machine – their albums appear as if by magic, with little fanfare and less promotion, kick everyone in the ass, and that’s just it. It’s all we need. Truths are revealed, conventions are challenged, heads are banged. Try driving under the speed limit while this album shakes your car windows. It ain’t easy.

Buy from Touch & Go


Survival Knife“Loose Power”
[ on the Sub Pop Records ]

Yes, I bow down at the altar of Unwound. Have for ages. I’ve long held that their swan-song, “Leaves Turn Inside You”, is one of the greatest collections of recorded music ever released. I still feel physical pain when I look at my unused ticket for my final chance to see them: September 11th, 2001 at the Middle East, a show that was called off just after they soundchecked, as I stood outside lost and looking for something to cling to.

Survival Knife’s arrival, studio output, and recent first-ever cross-country tour has gone a long way towards healing that open wound. No, they’re not Unwound, but with two ex-members and a sonic recipe that includes tension, restraint, and glorious release, there is undeniably some common DNA. They scratch a lot of the same itches, telling their songs as sonic stories as they eschew traditional structures while throwing in some metal for good measure. You’re not going to hear a lot of verse-chorus-verse, and you’re not going to miss it. Last month I got to see them live here in Boston, and I felt whole.

Stream another track at Soundcloud / Buy from Sub Pop


Withered Hand“New Gods”
[ on the Slumberland Records ]

I’ll take Dan Willson, aka Mr. Withered Hand, however he wants to present himself: Solo or with his full band, backed by a crack collection of ace players or just him, his guitar, and his singularly unique voice. My first thought on hearing he’d teamed up with beloved Slumberland Records was “perfect”, and so it was. My long-standing wish to see him perform finally came true this year when he played with his band at Chickfactor 22 last March, though a Withered Hand solo gig remains high on my live show bucket list. 2015, perhaps?

Stream more WH songs at Soundcloud / Buy from Slumberland


Wussy“Attica”
[ on the Shake It Records ]

Cincinnati’s Wussy, a band with a wealth of great records already under their belt, could easily rest on those laurels and put out just another solid collection of songs. Instead, they released an absolute stunner. “Attica” has some of the finest work they’ve ever done, including the album opener (“Teenage Wasteland“) and the closer (“Beautiful“), each of them candidates for personal song-of-the-year. How this band continues to plug along relatively unheralded is beyond me (though the efforts of CBS Saturday Morning to help remedy that was much appreciated).

Stream/buy at Bandcamp / Buy from Shake It


Wye Oak“Shriek”
[ on the Merge Records ]

I’ll admit it, I was scared. When I first heard that Wye Oak had ditched guitars in favor of bass and keyboards for their upcoming record, I had major doubts. As a longtime fanboy, I hadn’t met a Wye Oak release I hadn’t loved, and Jenn Wasner’s guitar played no small part in that. I’m generally averse to the bleep-bloop, so the prospect of its overuse had me prepared for disappointment.

Well, whaddya know, it turns out my fears were unfounded, and I should have trusted Andy & Jenn all along. Yes, the guitar may be gone, but the songs are still there – evocative, interesting, and just plain catchy, with Jenn’s vocals sounding better than ever, and Andy astonishing with his ever-inventive drum parts and rhythmic multi-tasking. They were able to somehow embrace a whole new sonic palette, nearly reinvent themselves, and succeed in ways I didn’t expect. I don’t just love this record, I love that I love this record. Proved that even my guitar-centric mind can be rewired at my advancing age.

Stream another song at Soundcloud / Buy from Merge Records


The honorable mentions…
(aka “albums I listened to a ton and could easily
have made the above list depending on my mood”)

The Afghan Whigs – “Do To The Beast”, Hiss Golden Messenger – “Lateness of Dancers, Mogwai – “Rave Tapes”, Anders Parker – “There’s A Blue Bird In My Heart”, Soccer Mom – self-titled debut, Sharon Van Etten – “Are We There”, Sleepyhead – “Wild Sometimes”, Pink Avalanche – “The Luminous Heart of Nowhere”


Favorite records that I played on…

Colin Clary – “Twee Blues Vol.1”, Let’s Whisper – “As Close As We Are” 10-inch

If you’re bored and looking to surf some history, have a look at my previous year-end fave lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001.

Stop back in a few days, when I’ll hopefully have a follow-up post with a few EPs, 7-inches, reissues, and live shows that I loved in 2014. If I’m not already too deep into 2015, that is.

Best to you and yours in the new year. May it bring you all you desire, or at least none of the things you don’t.

Comments

3 Responses to “[Nac Faves] My Favorite LPs of 2014”

  1. Daniel
    January 3rd, 2015 @ 1:48 am

    I always appreciate your year-end reviews. Several of your previous collections have a permanent place on my ipod. Look forward to checking these bands out, and no doubt finding some new faves of my own. All the best in the New Year!

  2. John
    January 25th, 2015 @ 9:35 pm

    Thanks really enjoyed this list! Lots of new stuff to me. Cheers and here’s to a prosperous and peaceful 2015.

  3. Steve
    January 26th, 2015 @ 9:47 am

    Hey Brad – I haven’t listened to many on your list, but I just wanted to let you know that I had exactly the same experience with exactly the same moment of the Alvvays album. Wonderful stuff.

    Take care.

    S

Leave a Reply





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    Sunday, May 19th
    Mono
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    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Wednesday, May 22nd
    halfsour (record release!)
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    @ Great Scott


    Wednesday, May 22nd
    Laura Stevenson
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    @ the Sinclair


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    American Football
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    @ the Paradise


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    Passion Pit
    The Beaches
    @ the House of Blues


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    Filthy Friends
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    @ the Sinclair


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    The Undertones
    Dot Dash
    @ ONCE Ballroom


    Saturday, May 25th
    Slayer
    Lamb of God
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    Cannibal Corpse
    @ the Xfinity Center


    Wednesday, May 29th
    Glen Hansard
    @ the Orpheum


    Thursday & Friday
    May 30th & 31st
    Local Natives
    Middle Kids
    @ the Paradise


    Friday, May 31st
    Lady Lamb (full band)
    Katie Von Schleicher
    Benjamin Lazar Davis
    @ the Royale


    Thursday, June 6th
    Fog Lake
    @ the ONCE Ballroom


    Thursday, June 6th
    Coheed and Cambria
    Mastodon
    Every Time I Die
    @ the Pavilion


    Friday, June 7th
    The Rural Alberta Advantage
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, June 8th
    The Figgs
    two shows!
    4pm & 7pm
    @ the Burren


    Saturday, June 8th
    Howard Jones
    Men Without Hats
    All Hail the Silence
    @ the Paradise


    Monday & Tuesday
    June 10th & 11th
    Perry Farrell’s
    Kind Heaven Orchestra
    @ City Winery Boston


    Tuesday, June 11th
    Craig Finn and
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    @ the Sinclair


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    Wu-Tang Clan
    @ the House of Blues


    Thursday, June 13th
    Yeasayer
    @ the Paradise


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    June 14th & 15th
    Jawbox
    with Second Letter (14th)
    and LaPeche (15th)
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday, June 15th
    The Lemonheads
    Tommy Stinson (Replacements)
    @ the Paradise


    Saturday, June 15th
    Droneflower
    (Steve Brodsky & Marissa Nadler)
    @ Great Scott


    Saturday, June 15th
    The Specials
    @ the House of Blues


    Monday, June 17th
    Dido
    @ the House of Blues


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    Earth
    Helms Alee
    @ the Once Ballroom


    Thursday, June 20th
    Kristin Hersh (trio show)
    Fred Abong
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    Kishi Bashi
    @ the Paradise


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    Spencer Krug
    (Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown)
    @ Cafe 939


    Saturday, June 22nd
    seBADoh
    @ the Sinclair


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    Slothrust
    Weakened Friends
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    The Lonely Island
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    Foxwarren
    Hannah Cohen
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    Friday, June 28th
    Wand
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    Lithics
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    Cate Le Bon
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    Jackson Browne
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    Velvet Crush
    Sleepyhead
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    DJ Ty Jesso
    @ ONCE Somerville


    Monday, July 8th
    Third Eye Blind
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    Ra Ra Riot
    @ Blue Hills Pavilion


    Tuesday, July 9th
    Psychedelic Furs
    James
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    Tuesday, July 9th
    We Were Promised Jetpacks
    @ the Sinclair


    Wednesday, July 10th
    Bill Callahan (smog)
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday, July 13th
    Belle & Sebastian
    Ex Hex
    @ the House of Blues


    Sunday, July 14th
    The Messthetics
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, July 16th
    Carly Rae Jepsen
    @ the House of Blues


    Wednesday, July 17th
    Heart
    Sheryl Crow
    Elle King
    @ Xfinity Center


    Friday, July 19th
    Okkervil River
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, July 21st
    Weird Al Yankovic
    @ the Pavilion


    Tuesday, July 23rd
    Elvis Costello & the Imposters
    Blondie
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    Saturday, July 27th
    The Faint
    Ritual Howls
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Thursday, August 1st
    Iron Maiden
    with The Raven Age
    @ Xfinity Center


    Saturday, August 3rd
    Ben Folds
    Violent Femmes
    @ the Bank Pavilion


    Monday, August 5th
    Bryan Ferry
    performing Roxy Music’s
    “Avalon” & more
    @ Boston Opera House


    Wednesday, August 7th
    The Paper Kites
    @ Somerville Theatre


    Tuesday, August 13th
    John Fogerty
    @ the Pavilion


    Tuesday, August 13th
    Neurosis
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, August 15th
    Beck
    Cage The Elephant
    Spoon
    Sunflower Bean
    @ the Xfinity Center


    Wednesday, August 21st
    The Alarm
    Gene Loves Jezebel
    Modern English
    @ the Paradise


    Thursday, August 22nd
    Bitch Mountain
    Birthday Ass
    Puppy Problems
    Prior Panic
    @ ONCE Somerville


    Sunday, August 25th
    Alex Lahey
    @ Great Scott


    Tuesday, September 3rd
    Vampire Weekend
    @ Agganis Arena


    Sunday, September 8th
    Avail
    @ the Royale


    Sunday, September 8th
    Fontaines D.C.
    Pottery
    @ Great Scott


    Monday, September 9th
    The Raconteurs
    @ House of Blues


    Monday, September 9th
    Hot Chip
    @ the Royale


    Wednesday, September 11th
    Jethro Tull
    @ the Chevalier, Medford


    Friday, September 13th
    The Who
    @ Fenway Park


    Wednesday, September 18th
    ZZ Top
    Cheap Trick
    @ the Pavilion


    Wednesday, September 18th
    The Julian Lage Trio
    @ the Sinclair


    Thursday, September 19th
    Bloc Party
    performing “Silent Alarm”
    @ the House of Blues


    Thursday, September 19th
    King Crimson
    @ the Wang Theatre


    Friday, September 20th
    The Feelies
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday, September 21st
    Andrew Bird
    Calexico and Iron & Wine
    @ the Bank Pavilion


    Saturday, September 21st
    Massive Attack
    “MezzanineXX1” tour
    @ the Wang


    Sunday, September 22nd
    Mac DeMarco
    @ the Orpheum


    Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
    September 25th, 26th, & 27th
    Three nights of Built To Spill
    “Keep It Like A Secret” Anniversary Tour
    @ the Sinclair


    Sunday, September 29th
    Stereolab
    @ the Royale


    Sunday, September 29th
    Graham Nash
    @ the Berklee Performance Center


    Thursday, October 3rd
    Ladytron
    @ the Royale


    Thursday, Friday, & Saturday
    October 3rd, 4th, & 5th
    Three nights of Billy Bragg
    “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday, October 5th
    Maggie Rogers
    Empress Of
    @ the Wang Theatre


    Saturday, October 5th
    Mudhoney
    Pissed Jeans
    @ Brighton Music Hall


    Sunday, October 6th
    Mt. Joy
    @ the Royale


    Sunday, October 11th
    The Black Keys
    Modest Mouse
    Jessy Wilson
    @ TD Garden


    Sunday, October 13th
    Big Thief
    Palehound
    @ the Wilbur


    Wednesday, October 16th
    Oh Sees
    @ the Sinclair


    Saturday & Sunday
    October 19th & 20th
    Cave In
    Miltown
    @ the Sinclair


    Friday & Saturday
    October 18th & 19th
    The Town and the City Festival
    returns to Lowell, MA!


    Friday, October 25th
    Jenny Lewis
    @ the House of Blues


    Friday & Saturday
    October 25th & 26th
    Steely Dan
    @ the Orpheum


    Saturday, October 26th
    Peter Hook & the Light
    @ the Paradise


    Tuesday & Wednesday
    October 29th, 30th, & November 1st
    Steely Dan
    @ the Orpheum


    Wednesday, October 30th
    Jónsi & Alex Somers (Sigur Ros)
    “Riceboy Sleeps”
    with the Wordless Music Orchestra
    @ the Wilbur


    Thursday, October 14th
    Robert Forster (Go-Betweens)
    @ City Winery Boston


    Sunday, December 8th
    Cher
    with Nile Rogers & Chic
    @ the Garden