Archive for the ‘ music ’ Category
I really like what I wrote over at the All Songs Considered blog, so before it gets buried in everyone else’s nominations, I want to share mine here:
And now, the final installment of the Greats of 2008 series.
For the past two years, I’ve made a mix CD for friends featuring my favorite music of the past year. It’s not always songs from my favorite albums, but they are songs that I consistently rewound for second or third plays in a row. Here’s what made the cut this year.
No One Does It Like You – Department of Eagles: Best song of the year for me — absolutely no doubt.
Call It A Ritual – Wolf Parade: I love all the different ways he says the title. His enunciation intrigues me.
Modern Guilt – Beck: Lots of really great ditties on that album, and some so-so ones. I love the beat and the little electronic blips on this track. And of course I dig the 60s vibe.
Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur – Sigur Ros: Yes, they can be FUN!
The Re-arranger – Mates of State: Possibly my second favorite song of the year. A late find for me. I’m so glad they stopped shouting because they can make really beautiful music.
Two Ways – The 1900s: This is a version from Daytrotter that was recorded in February, though I think the song is from 2007. No matter, it’s a brilliant one.
Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend: I hated this song at first because I thought “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma” was a stupid way to open a song. It is still, but the rest of the rich melody makes up for it. I love how he sings “put the chap stick on your lips”.
California Girls – The Magnetic Fields: I mainly included this song because I completely agree with its thesis.
Don’t Do Anything – Sam Phillips: Another favorite song of the year for me. It contains all that I love about songs as an artform — simplicity usually wins.
Weather to Fly – Elbow: I don’t like the beginning of this song, but I love how he goes “perfect weather to fly” then immediately follows it with another “weather to fly” sung higher in this almost churchly fashion. It’s like when you first hear a Brit say something but it sounds like they’re asking a question, because they end on a higher note. Love it.
Flume – Bon Iver: For some reason “Skinny Love” became everyone’s fave off the album, but the first track is the killer for me. I’m a sucker for weird droney feedbacky sounds.
Tiger Mountain Pleasant Song – Fleet Foxes: I mean, seriously. If this song isn’t entered in a time capsule for 2008, I’ll cry.
Among the Pines – A.A. Bondy: Another Daytrotter session. I’m not sure when this originally came out, but I think this Dylan wannabe has a lot of talent. No matter what all the mean, old folks at the Bondy/Heartless Bastards show said.
Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis: I rarely fully memorize songs any more, mostly because I don’t understand lyrics very well and I don’t bother sitting down with the lyric book like I did in high school. But this one stuck to me right away, and I’m happy for that.
Librarian – My Morning Jacket: This song is about me and my kind. And I think it’s sexy when he says “duck into the men’s room” even though it’s probably the worst part of the song.
Sing the Changes – The Fireman: Just give it a try. I can say no more.
Sentimental Heart – She & Him: Yeah, everyone needs a little folk bubble gum on a mix CD. The version I included is actually a live take from somewhere, but you can’t even tell.
Here we are at last – my favorite music of 2008. Like one of my comrades in music inspection, this was a hard one. I think it was a great year for music, in the sense that I liked and purchased a lot of albums. More than any other year, probably. But there were no real stand out obvious choices, except for my top one. But even then, it wasn’t like Sufjan Stevens or Midlake where I listened to the album every day and memorized the whole thing. Or maybe I’m just too old for that now.
10. Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer: Although I’ve hardly listened to the second half of this album, the songs that are good are really innovative, and deserve recognition here. [For whatever that's worth.] I never paid attention to this band until I heard “Call It a Ritual” with its off-kilter piano this year and immediately loved it. These guys make great hooks with a mean guitar. I listened to Apologies to the Queen Mary to make up for lost time, but it felt empty to me. Still, I predict that Wolf Parade have a long and varied career.
9. Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs, The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: The last decade or so of Dylan’s career has seen a resurgence of his talent finally. Was it really gone or was he just putting his energy into something none of us understood (his Christianity and desire for shitty production)? Anyway, this set makes his voice sound great and showcases his amazing band. They are so tight, which from what I understand, is diffcult to do with Dylan. Greatest songwriter ever, so shutup you hipster haters.
8. Sam Phillips – Don’t Do Anything: I’d never heard of this chick until Bob Boilen was gabbing about her Tiny Desk Concert at NPR. From what I read, I thought I wouldn’t be interested, but my gut told me to give it a try. Boy am I glad I have a smart gut. The sound of this album is really surprising — it’s just as full of distortion as the Magnetic Fields were in January, and the songwriting is almost of equal caliber. This was my biggest, and happiest, surprise of 2008 for sure. She’s certainly not for the hardcore hipsters though.
7. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend: To be fair, I’d probably put this one higher if not for all the hype and subsequent backlash. Yeah, I can ride a bandwagon with the best of ‘em. But really, this is a clever album with sounds pop music hasn’t heard since Paul Simon’s Graceland. I’m hoping they’ll grow up with their next album, stop talking about the east coast and college, and even ditch the Afropop. They’ve got real potential. But they’ll probably just break up. Or pretend not to like The Strokes.
6. Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue: She does it again, though in an only slightly less country way. She’s sly with her songs — you really need to pay attention. Ditch Rilo Kiley, Jenny, you’re better without them.
5. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid: This was my favorite album for a really long time, and I’m glad it won the Mercury Prize. But then suddenly all the sentimentality lost its luster, and I think a lot of it had to do with the totally lame video for “The Bones of You“, an otherwise brilliant song. Now I’m turned off by it, but I predict that it will become meaningful again in the future.
4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago: I already included this in my Lists of 2007, but it deserves another highlight here. I’m so happy that Justin Vernon has made such a splash around the world with this gorgeous album. MOJO even interviewed him at home in Eau Claire (where I lived during college for 4.5 years)! And he’s following it up with an EP next month, so keep your ears peeled.
3. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park: I can’t understand why this album is missing from so many lists this year. I’ve liked Grizzly Bear (both featuring Daniel Rossen), but never got as obsessed with Yellow House or Friend as I did this one. The soundscape on this album is miraculous. It’s what Brian Wilson wished That Lucky Old Sun could sound like. Heavenly…
2. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges: Screw you, haters of this album. I love that the sounds are all over the place. I love that it’s overproduced in spots (that’s the only time you’ll ever hear me say that). I love the proggy sound (again, that’s the only time you’ll hear me say that). This album had nothing going for it in terms of my musical taste. But every song is amazing because Jim James knows how to sing, play guitar, and write fine songs. It’s as simple as that. It’s the Revolver of 2008. I hope MMJ make their Sgt Pepper next year.
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes & Sun Giant [EP]: Best newish band of the year. Best live act for me. Best songs. Part Shins, part Midlake, all Northwest, pastoral, bearded goodness. While I was in Oregon earlier this year, driving through deep woods, my mind’s soundtrack kept repeating “White Winter Hymnal“. Absolutely perfect.
I was thinking of having a post about all the non-music things that I saw or got into this year, but I realized that it would involve a lot of research and memory. Plus, I haven’t seen too many movies this year, and I’m not used to reviewing plays, so I’m sticking to music.
Here’s some music that I’ve seen on some best of 2008 lists that I’d like to spend more time with.
And now, working up to my top 10, here’s the albums that didn’t make the big list. These are albums I did spend time with, or saw on tour, but didn’t really get obsessed with.
Updated – I forgot a few.
Like last year, I’d like to highlight the not-so-new music that I finally discovered or re-discovered since January. Between my list here and Pitchfork’s suspicious 500 Songs of the last 30 years, I hope some hipsters will discover some goodies over five years old.
We’ve finally made it. The US has a swell new prez, there’s more cute cat videos online than ever before, and Britney Spears may actually come back to some state of normalcy. It’s a great time to post some best of lists!
I’m starting with my favorite shows of 2008 because what I witnessed was amazing time and time again. Some shows were little, some big, but nearly all exciting and memorable.
More lists to come!
Two technological advances have recently been added to my apartment.
Number one is a Wii. After searching several spots in Eau Claire, Wisconsin last Saturday, I finally found one of seven available at SuperTarget the next day. So I “worked out” with WiiSports all week, and it seems to be working. I’m no longer sore for two days after playing baseball.
Yesterday I purchased Mario Galaxy, which has proven to be as much of a time suck as I expected. However, I think it gave me a migraine today. After getting hung up on a couple levels, I decided to google solutions to killing the bosses. Turns out, some dude has recorded his plays with perfect quality and uploaded them to, what else, YouTube. Mario Galaxy is a really good game. The storyline is actually really good and could easily be a children’s fantasy cartoon or picture book. And every level is so visually creative. I don’t know how those Japanese do it. No wonder it’s the top rated Wii game thusfar, according to Metacritic.
The number two technical advance in my apartment is the Le Bistro automatic pet feeder. My cat has been causing me a lot of trouble, waking me up between 5:00 and 6:30 to feed her. I’m hoping the feeder will solve that issue, but it hasn’t after five days. We’ll see. Like everyone else who has purchased Le Bistro, I thought it was a bitch to program. There’s only three buttons, but it’s impossible to keep what they do straight with every level within the menu. Somehow I accidentally changed the actual time and added lunch (normally Amelia is only fed breakfast and dinner) so she may have been getting four meals for two days.
Yay for crap the middle class wastes money on!
Non-tech-P.S. I met Alan Sparhawk from Low last night! He’s friends with my friend Chad. I tried to keep the convo as normal as possible, and it seemed to work. We discussed SXSW, trail mix, and some other stuff I’ve already forgotten. I didn’t say anything gushy, which I sort of regret. Super nice guy.
We have finally reached the pinnacle of Lists of 2007. Yes, here are my favorite album releases of 2007.
I want to clarify here that these are my favorites, not “the best”, as no one has the authority to make such a claim, including Pitchfork. The albums in my “favorites” list are albums and songs I got really into, maybe even obsessed with, for a lengthy period of time this year. The “Noble Attempts” list reflects albums that really caught my attention, and I liked a great deal, but I didn’t spend an overwhelming amount of time with, for whatever reason.
So, let’s get to it.
Okkervil River – The Stage Names: I loved this the first couple times I listened to this, but for some reason it never stuck. Like I avoid listening to it. I sometimes do this if I really love something, because I’m either obsessed with something else at the time and can only handle one obsession at once.
Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris: I don’t love this whole album, but I really love “Turning on the Screw” and “Into the Hollow.” Josh Homme’s voice always grabs me with its clarity and slick ways of moving through a melody, but the guitars are sometimes a bit much. Plus I like that he’s a rocker with short hair.
Rufus Wainwright – Release the Stars: Finally, Rufus is back to making something I can handle. His lyrics here are some of his best, especially “America” and “Tulsa.”
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog: I was really into this album even though all of the tracks kinda sound the same. Calixico have definitely helped him expand his sound, but they in turn have such a distinct sound, that it gets a little boring. I stopped listening to the album after I heard them do “Dark Eyes” on the “I’m Not There” soundtrack. Yuck — it is so stylized and irritating to hear. Then I realized it sounds like “The Shepherd’s Dog.”
St. Vincent – Marry Me: I cannot convey in words how much better St. Vincent is live than on this album. This album does her talent no justice. It is incredibly overproduced — all of the little sounds are completely unnecessary. The mix is good at least. Still, I’ve nearly moved this up to my actual favorite albums list, because it is growing on me. Favorite track = “Jesus Saves, I Spend.”
Neil Young – Chrome Dreams II: I haven’t spent much time with this at all, but it was such a relief to hear Neil back at what he does best — a mix of folk and rock with a political bent. This is certainly his best album since “Living with War” (which wasn’t that long ago, mind you).
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha: I think this is the Birdman’s “Sgt Pepper” to his “Revolver”, which was “The Mysterious Production of Eggs.” Everyone knows “Revolver” is far superior to “Sgt Pepper,” but the latter always gets the press still. He may write something better than “Eggs”, but just in case, this comparison stands. I think that all the folks who missed “Eggs” a couple years ago grabbed this album and figured out how amazing he was, but in fact he’s been amazing long before this (not that I’m an authority — I became a fan when “Eggs” was released). But “Eggs” was overshadowed (rightfully so, IMHO) by Sufjan’s “Illinois” that year.
Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full: This is the definition of a “noble attempt.” Paul really was trying to make something fresh, but personal, that matched his style. He certainly succeeded in that. Maybe this will be his “Sgt. Pepper” to “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”‘s “Revolver.” Oh.
Albert Hammond Jr. – Yours to Keep: I just like this album, that’s all. It’s not awesome, it’s not especially creative or original. It’s just nice soft-ish rock/pop. And it’s better than anything the Strokes have done lately.
Panda Bear – Person Pitch: In theory, I adore this album. As many have already said, it sounds like if Brian Wilson never stopped taking drugs but didn’t kinda go nuts either. It is sooo “SMiLE”-like, except in song length. How many times do you really need to repeat a line? I mean seriously. Still, an amazingly innovative album.
Joan as Policewoman – Real Life: This nearly made my favorites list too. It’s just not consistent enough though. The first two songs nail me every time, but after that I fade in and out of interest. I hope she makes another album, and works with Antony again.
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago: So, uh, yeah, I kinda know this blog/Pitchfork sensation. I went to college with him and many members of his first band, Mount Vernon. But that’s not why this album is so great. It’s actually very Iron & Wine, but in a better way than I critiqued I&W above. He’s such a great songwriter, and I wish him the best of luck. Check out some tunage and tour dates (including the Turf Club, locals!) here.
These are in no particular order. I attempted to make an order, but all I can come up with is #1s. Yes, it’s a tie, ladies and gentleman!
1. I’m Not There Original Soundtrack: It’s hard for me to label an album full of covers as my favorite, especially since it came out late this year. But, this album has brought me so much happiness, but in the soundtrack form, and in my newfound understanding of Bob Dylan’s music. I finally started listening to all those Dylan MP3s I’ve accumulated and soon after started playing guitar along with the tracks. What a joy! But back to the soundtrack — Stephen Malkmus’s songs are huge standouts. He’s really in his element and sounds so natural. And it’s a great way to get indie names to those classic rock dudes who stopped paying attention to music in 1977.
1. The National – Boxer: This album also brought me great pleasure…almost in the sense that I should change my panties after I hear it. No, no, that’s not quite true. But it is sexy in a slightly disturbing way, and it introduced me to this awesome band. I go back and forth between liking “Alligator” and “Boxer” more.
And now for the rest (in no particular order)…
Radiohead – In Rainbows: I think that everything that can be said about this album has been said. My favorite tracks are “Nude,” “Bodysnatchers”and then “Reckoner” on through to the end. The rest of the songs I can take or leave. Except “15 Steps,” I can’t stand that song.
PJ Harvey – White Chalk: It’s hard to believe this is actually PJ Harvey singing and not playing a guitar. This is a very daring album for her — much more daring, I think, than “Rid of Me.” I read an interview with Thurston Moore this year where he said something like it’s now bold and unique to sound quiet instead of loud. “White Chalk” proves this is true. I love that “Broken Harp” starts with “Please don’t reproach me…” Who says “reproach” anymore? Even her lyrics sound genuinely old.
Neil Young – Live at Massey Hall: I love Neil Young all alone, acoustic. He brings so much passion to every performance. This CD and the accompanying DVD (where we see the real “Old Man”!), are from a brief moment in time where the world did not yet know classics such as “Heart of Gold” and “A Man Needs a Maid” has different lyrics.
Yoko Ono – Yes I’m a Witch: This album wasn’t quite what I imagined. I thought Yoko would re-record some of her songs with these great indie and alt bands. Turns out, it seems like they mostly just used her original vocal track. The only other person who sings is Cat Power, in a gorgeous “duet” with Yoko on “Revelations.” Another stand-out track, which actually got a lot of coverage this year, was Spiritualized’s haunting version of “Walking on Thin Ice.”
Tori Amos – American Girl Posse: Yeah, yet another proud feminist in my list. Take that, Republicans! Anyway, see my review of this album here. I take back the “Friend Green Tomatoes” comment, though.
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Once soundtrack: What a strange combo — the cute Eastern European girl and an Irish rock n’ roller turn into the best musical match on that side of the pond. I rarely pay attention to soundtracks, but this year two made my favorites list. Crazy!
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – Raising Sand: Here’s the best, though most unlikely, musical match on this side of the pond. Where the fuck did this come from? Seriously, the combination is beyond weird, and the music? Well, the music is…damn good. Like this is one of the best new bands this year, if they were a new band. Maybe they should be. They sound terrific together, I think mainly because Robert is singing below someone. What a great dynamic.
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible: I loved this album for about a month then put it away, only to go back to “Funeral” and pick up this one maybe twice more before the end of the year. There are a couple really great songs, like “Intervention” and the one nobody else seems to like, “My Body is a Cage.” But overall, it just doesn’t stick with me like “Funeral” did.
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky: Jeff Tweedy’s home life does not interest me in the least bit, but thank God we’ve got some awesome guitar playing on this album, otherwise I wouldn’t have listened to this album more than once. But now, I crave its sound, not particular songs. The song structure and guitar playing are the highlights here, which is strange considering such a masterful lyricist and emotional singer like Tweedy is still in the band. Oh well, it’s still better than “A Ghost is Born.”
Rufus Wainwright – Rufus Does Judy Live at Carnegie Hall: This show FINALLY was released just a couple of weeks ago. It’s not as lively as I’d hoped it would be, and he doesn’t really nail the songs as I thought he would. He barely follows Judy’s phrasing, which I think is a mistake. But this makes it on my favorites list anyway because I adore that Rufus did this show.
Bruce Springsteen – Magic: I never ever would have thought I would add a Springsteen album to my favorites list. But “Magic” is flat-out, undeniably, a fantastic record. His songwriting is on par with both his older stuff and other current bands (I’ll refrain from going on about “the conversation“). Granted, any song with a measurable sax solo is still yucky to me, but tracks 1, and then 4 through 6 are amazing. I’ve seen the Light.
Thanks for sticking around everyone! I know this was long and drawn out, but I hope you managed to waste some time at work reading it. :)
Still reading? Good.
This isn’t much of a list because there’s only one, in my mind: The 1900s. Not to be confused with the 1990s. Or the actual century. These guys make beautiful homespun pop that I first heard on the stereogum.com MP3 player. Stereogum labeled them “a band to watch“, but I don’t think anyone did. I didn’t even remember to go to their show at the Entry. I fully expect major bloggage in 2008, so download the music from Stereogum and blog away!
These are albums that I heard of through other lists that have already been published, with the exception of Thurston Moore’s album. It’s not on Rhapsody, so I haven’t been able to hear it all. But the song I heard on All Songs Considered was very promising.
If anyone has further recommendations for albums I missed this year, please comment!
John Vanderslice – Emerald City
Augie March – Moo, You Bloody Choir
Blitzen Trapper – Wild Mountain Nation
Thurston Moore – Trees Outside The Academy
Devendra Banhart – Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters: This is the one on this list that I’ve spent the most time with, and nearly put them on another list even closer to my official best of. They’re Scottish, which is very obvious in their singing. It’s like hearing the “I Would Walk 500 Miles” dudes making a lush, almost Radiohead-esque album. I find it hard not to be distracted by their accents. Guess I’m more English than I thought. ;)
Next time: drum roll please….my “Noble Attempts” and “Fave Albums of 2007″ lists!