Author Silas House blogs about writing, the writing life, books, movies, nature, religion, politics, and other things that generally concern conscious people. House is the author of the bestselling books Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, Something's Rising, Eli the Good, and Same Sun Here. HIs novel Southernmost will be published in June 2018. Find out more about him and his writing at www.silas-house.com
Favorite Music of 2014
My top ten in alphabetical order:
The River and the Thread-Rosanne Cash's meditative travelogue of the South gets better with every listen.
Self-titled-Hozier. What a voice, what a songwriter. His massive hit "Take Me To Church" was worn out this year but the album as a whole is a masterful debut and cements his place as one of the most important new artists out there today.
Wildewoman-Lucius. My daughter introduced me to this band and I've been loving them ever since. Seeing them live is wonderful but they're one of the rare duets who translate just as beautifully to recordings. I love the 80s vibe mixed with soul and country. Music that is joyous and poignant.
Lost on the River-The New Basement Tapes. A supergroup composed of Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and produced by T Bone Burnett, takes some of Dylan's best lost lyrics, adds to them, and ends up with one of the most beautiful albums in recent memory.
American Middle Class-Angaleena Presley's (Pistol Annies) debut solo record could be the soundtrack for contemporary Appalachia. It's that honest, that subversive, and that complex. A completely original and uncompromising album from an artist who is ahead of her time. Presley shines a light on the heart of modern rural life, exposing its joys, sorrows, hypocrisy, and everything in between.
Self-titled-Parker Millsap. I attended a concert of Millsap's in New York City where he opened for Patty Griffin. His set drew a five minute standing ovation from one of the toughest audiences in the world. His music is keenly intelligent, moving, and singable.
Fair Warning-The Rails. This one hasn't been released in America yet, although it's a hit in England. This duo (including Kami Thompson, daughter of Richard and Linda, sister of Teddy) not only has some of the best harmonies of recent memory but has also assembled an album full of longing and beauty. I love every single song on this one. You can get a free download of their song "Bonnie Portmore" (my favorite on the album) by going to www.therailsofficial.com
In the Lonley Hour-Sam Smith. I'm not much of a sucker for pop albums but I was for this one.
Lazeretto-Jack White. The king of contemporary rock n roll has always loved country music and he has perfectly merged the two here. If you ever have the chance to see him live, do it. Amazing show.
The Way I'm Livin'-Lee Ann Womack. The country album of the decade. Womack has that unmistakeable voice, that great knack for songcatching, and is a true class act. Even if you're not a country fan, this is a record to put on repeat.
Other favorite albums of the year, arranged alphabetically:
Tori Amos-Unrepentant Geraldines
The Secret Sisters-Put Your Needle Down
First Aid Kit-Stay Gold
Hurray for the Riffraff-Small Town Heroes
Lydia Loveless-Somewhere Else
Nickel Creek-A Dotted Line
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers-Hypnotic Eye
Linda Thompson-Won’t Be Long Now
Lucinda Williams-Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
Singles, in no particular order
Call Me-St. Paul & the Broken Bones
The Devil Is All Around-Shovels and Rope
Take Me to Church-Hozier
Figure It Out-Royal Blood
Dontcha-The Internet. This is a pretty perfect pop song. Makes me want to dance.
When I Get My Hands On You-The New Basement Tapes
Your Southern Heart-Rosanne Cash
Don’t Just Sit There-Lucius
Heart is a Drum-Beck. One of his best songs, ever. I can't get it out of my head.
No Rest for the Wicked Lykke Li. A haunting song.
I Hate to See Your Heart Break-Paramore. Maybe my favorite single of the year. A perfectly written country-influence pop song by an underrated band.
Left Hand Free-Alt-J. So weird, so much fun, so catchy.
Rude-Magic!-The catchiest song of the year, and one of the most fun, if not the most profound. But beats most of what's at the top of the charts.
Latch-Disclosure (with Sam Smith)
Always N Forever-The Orwells.
Blue Collar Jane-The Strypes. This band is big in Ireland. I wish American teenagers could get excited about rock and roll that is this much fun.
I hate it when I hear people say that there's no great music out there. There is. It's just not usually on the radio. Dig deeper and find it.
1. News of the World. Paulette Jiles's short and beautiful Western was deeply moving and it is one of those rare books of which I can honestly say that every single sentence is a gem. Absolutely the novel of the year for me.
2. Mothering Sunday. Graham Swift wrote this elegant and stunning 192 page novel. Its shortness emphasizes just how masterful it is because in just a few pages Swift creates an entire world and gives us big themes like class, the power of storytelling, and loss, all delivered in prose that is erotic, economical, and powerful.
3. Raymie Nightingale. Kate DiCamillo wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Because of Winn Dixie, but this one is almost as good. A look at the definitions of friendship, family (chosen and blood), and the desire to be a good person. I absolutely loved it.
4. Miss Jane. Full disclosure here: the author, Brad Watson, was one of my mentors when I was studying for my MFA. But that doe…
I jumped the gun on my favorite albums of the year because I hadn't heard these gems when I composed my list. These were released in 2013 and are among my favorites, too.
Ben Sollee's The Hollow Sessions is a beauty that finds Sollee covering artists like Tom Waits, Otis Redding, Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, Gillian Welch, Harry Belafonte, and others. The album was recorded in a little house situated in a Kentucky holler and conjure up the rural summertime with birds, wind, crickets, even water wending their way into the music. Sollee's cello and vocals are in top form and this piece of land brings out the best in him. In the press kit he says: “It’s a place to recharge and be still between the manic pace of the road. Over the years I’ve written songs, ballets, and ﬁlm scores while visiting and thought it would be a special palce to share, at least sonically. We really featured its voice on the recordings. It is a magical place and I tried to let it conduct me.”
1. Manchester by the Sea is a heartbreaker that feels so real you leave the cinema feeling as if the story has happened to someone you know well and care about. I think it also boasts the best performances of the year in Casey Affleck's heartbroken handyman and Michelle Williams as a woman doing everything she can to survive. Rarely does a film so well use sense of place as this one. It was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who also made You Can Count on Me, and--a favorite film of mine--Margaret, an underrated masterpiece inspired by a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.
2. Sunset Song. Terrence Davies is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers ever yet this film didn't make much of a splash in America. It should have, as it is the film that has most haunted me this year with its sweeping scenes of farmers working their fields or the rising chorus as they stroll to church (as shown in the short scene I'm embedding below). It's a film that uses words like "g…