Archive for December, 2007

Best of 2007

Here they are, all in one tidy place, sans commentary: all those lists I kept posting for like two weeks.

Musical Disappointments

Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
White Stripes – Icky Thump
The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
Interpol – Our Love to Admire

Favorite Shows

St. Vincent @ Fine Line
Bruce Springsteen @ Xcel
The National @ Fine Line
Heartless Bastards @ 400 Bar
Retribution Gospel Choir @ Turf Club
Arcade Fire @ Roy Wilkens
Loud +2 @ 400 Bar
The Redwalls @ Triple Rock
Liars @ State Theatre
Andrew Bird @ First Ave & Guthrie

Music Videos

Best: Ayo Technology – 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake
Worst: Wait for You – Elliott Yamin

Duh, Stacia

Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Lou Reed – Transformer
Olivia Tremor Control
Jens Lekman
The National
M. Ward
Heartless Bastards – All this Time
Paul McCartney – Flowers in the Dirt
Paul Simon – Graceland

Most Underrated

The 1900s

Still Discovering

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

Noble Attempts

Albums that weren’t quite my favorites.

Okkervil River – The Stage Names
Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
Rufus Wainwright – Release the Stars
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
St. Vincent – Marry Me
Neil Young – Chrome Dreams II
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full
Albert Hammond Jr. – Yours to Keep
Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Joan as Policewoman – Real Life
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Favorite Releases

Two albums were tied for first place.

1. I’m Not There Original Soundtrack
1. The National – Boxer

Radiohead – In Rainbows
PJ Harvey – White Chalk
Neil Young – Live at Massey Hall
Yoko Ono – Yes I’m a Witch
Tori Amos – American Girl Posse
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Once soundtrack
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – Raising Sand
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
Rufus Wainwright – Rufus Does Judy Live at Carnegie Hall
Bruce Springsteen – MagicBest

Lists of 2007 – Part 5

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.

Noble Attempts

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.

My Fave Releases of 2007

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. :)

Lists of 2007 – Part 4

Still reading? Good.

Most Underrated

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!

Still Discovering

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!

Lists of 2007 – Part 3

Isn’t drawing this whole list thing out over days, and now another week, bringing the antici…pation level to HOTT? No, you say? Forgive me, as I am not the blogger who shoots my load in one measly post. Think of this as tantric listing. Mmmm…

As promised, here is my list of musicians who went under my radar until 2007. This is where you get to see how uncool I really am (just don’t tell anyone).

Duh, Stacia

Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator): I suppose I’ve always liked Gillian Welch. Since the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, she’s been in the back of my mind as someone to check out further. It wasn’t until I saw a Harry Smith documentary and saw Beth Orton that I really checked out Welch. Orton only made me want to hear Welch…it was weird.

Lou Reed – Transformer: This is a major duh. Again, I love the Velvet Underground, dig Bowie from around that time, and I know that I heard heard the album before I got really into it. I’m not sure what changed. Lou Reed is a very peculiar songwriter. He verges on being really bad, I think (he uses “nose” as a cheap rhyme three times on the album). Maybe that’s what makes him so awesome. P.S. Why doesn’t Bowie produce anymore?

Olivia Tremor Control: I was too busy either liking other things (Madonna, most likely) in the 1990s to pay much attention to Olivia Tremor Control. Luckily, someone pretty much forced me to listen to “Black Foliage: Volume one” and I fell in love. Or maybe I had to hear and love “Pet Sounds” and “SMiLE” first to really appreciate OTC. Yummy pop goodness all around.

Jens Lekman: A hunky, straight Stephen Merritt. I knew the Swedes wouldn’t let me down. El Perro Del Mar, a Swedish lady I first heard about this year as well, totally separately, also sings on his latest album. Go Swedes! Am I seriously the only one who doesn’t like “Night Falls On Kordela”?

The National: They haven’t been around for that long, but they have a few albums and I completely missed the buzz about “Alligator” the year before. I feel like such a poseur.

M. Ward: Like Lou Reed, Ward’s got a very simple approach to songwriting in terms of lyrics, but the guitar mastery is unlike other guitarists out there in indie or alt-country today. I have no idea why I avoided the buzz around “Post-War” when it came out last year, but I totally regret it.

Heartless Bastards – All this Time: See this post about me seeing this awesome band live.

Paul McCartney – Flowers in the Dirt: Thanks to a new DVD set and his entire catalog re-released this year, I became acquainted with this album, which I always assumed was filled with synthy yuckiness. Turns out I was only half right (there is some yuckiness, but generally not synth-related). The song “This One” (Rhapsody player needed) was extraordinary to me. It sounded like something off “Chaos and Creation” in its honesty. It stuck in my head for weeks, and began to effect some decisions. Turns out the whole albums isn’t all that bad, considering the time and the artist involved. Turns out all those crazy Paul fans were right — this is one of his better efforts, and certainly the best from the 1980s. Check out “Distractions” (Rhapsody player needed) as well.

Paul Simon – Graceland: The song “Graceland” kept coming up throughout 2007. I can’t really explain it. Again, this was one of those, like Gillian Welch, but even more so, that I was totally conscious of but never really bothered with. I clearly remember seeing Simon perform “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” on SNL. That and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” performances are two of my best SNL musical memories, and both really impacted me. I have a copy of MTV’s best of Unplugged compilation, featuring “Graceland” and I would always rewind it. Still, I can’t listen to that song only once. But like “Flowers in the Dirt”, “Graceland” (which is a year older), has some 1980s lameness, which I am generally most unforgiving of. But I’m learning to hear past the lameness, and it’s expanding my horizons in a major way. There’s no looking back now. Flock of Seagulls, here I come!

Stick around for the Most Underrated Band Award and Still Discovering List coming soon!

Lists of 2007 – Part 2

Now for the second installment of my ’07 lists, I bring you where my money went and my take on music videos because I like giving out imaginary awards.

Recipient of Most of My Money

Apple: My biggest purchase this year was an iMac, the day they came out. I’m very happy with it. Other than some usability issues, the computer and operating system itself has caused me no problems, unlike Windows does every damn day. I’m still finding things I want to do that I wish I had a third party Windows app for (mainly because there are fewer free Mac apps), but I’m making do. I also made three calendars & one book using iPhoto, which appears to be all iPhoto is good for. The book was greatly appreciated, as I’m sure the calendars will be at Christmas. It’s the geek’s craft. This year I purchased about 10 albums from iTunes, two of which were double albums. You’re welcome, Apple.

Music Videos

Best: Ayo Technology – 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake. I hate 50 Cent’s music normally, but this song is okay. I think it’s Timbaland, which would explain why it’s awesome. But it’s the video that really got me on MTV as I ate my breakfast for about a week. I love the little flickers and camera weirdness going on. I think that’s the technical term anyway. YouTube does not do it justice. Too many pixels Check it out on VH1 here.

Worst: Wait for You – Elliott Yamin. Oh Elliott, you certainly do look better than you did on your American Idol debut, but hello 1994 video quality? It seriously looks like a lame student film project from the 1990s. YouTube quality sucks again so check it out here.

Next time you’ll get to find out which musicians or albums went under my radar until this year. Don’t pee your pants in excitement quite yet, but feel free to remove them.

Lists of 2007 – Part 1

This post commences a series of lists o’ 2007 on The Truth Hurts. I don’t quite have my “favorites” or “best of” music list finalized (and my film best of list won’t be done until January or February probably), so I thought I’d start off with the things I know for sure.

Musical Disappointments

Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala: The thing is, I only got to know Jens beautiful music earlier this year. I loved its simplicity over the often paradoxical and highly amusing lyrics. But this one is a chamber pop orgasm, sort of the European, straight-but-not-narrow, Rufus Wainwright. Under different circumstances (if I had heard this album before his other stuff), I’d probably adore “Night Falls Over Kordula.” But I simply don’t.

White Stripes – Icky Thump: Maybe the word “icky” in the title led me in a certain direction, or maybe it was the cringe-worthy guitar riff on the title song that turned me off. I listened to it for about a week then forgot all about it. Leading up to “Icky Thump”‘s release, I gave “Get Behind Me Satan” another listen. I didn’t like it the first time around either, but I liked it more this time around. So maybe I’ll just always be an album behind from now on.

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away: I was really looking forward to this one. Maybe, like Badly Drawn Boy (“Hour of Bewilderbeast”), The Shins will only make one album that I’ll really love (“Chutes too Narrow”). None of the songs stood out for me. I don’t even remember any song titles. This album made absolutely no impression on me.

Interpol – Our Love to Admire: Disappointing new album and live show. You’re dead to me, Interpol.

Favorite Shows

  1. St. Vincent @ Fine Line: I actually saw St. Vincent twice this year. The first time, I thought she was a bag lady. This time, I thought she was a beautiful woman doing an awesome Andrew Bird impression (sans violin). Whenever I tried to think of my favorite shows this year, St Vincent opening for The National was always the first show I thought of. Maybe it was because she covered a slightly obscure Lennon/Beatles song (“I Dig a Pony”), or maybe it was her killer voice and guitar skillz, but her live show far surpasses her overproduced album, “Marry Me”.
  2. Bruce Springsteen @ Xcel: I am now a converted Boss fan, and I think it’s mostly thanks to Levi’s.
  3. The National @ Fine Line: My new favorite band for both recordings and live shows. Passion always wins me over. Most of their songs may be on the verge of balladering, but The National are one of the best rock n’ rollers out there today.
  4. Heartless Bastards @ 400 Bar: More proof that just three instruments and one voice can surpass bigger bands. I think the Hold Steady have a run for their money in the “best bar band” department.
  5. Retribution Gospel Choir @ Turf Club: This Alan Sparhawk-led band does Low covers, but rocks them just a bit more. Al can really belt it out, and he’s a hell of a showman — attributes I was unaware of after the many times I’ve seen Low. The male drummer’s voice somehow sounds a lot like Mimi, making the sound even spookier than Low in some ways.
  6. Arcade Fire @ Roy Wilkens: Need I say more? Ok, I will. They’d be at #1 if not for Win Butler’s wifey annoying the crap out of me any time she opens her mouth.
  7. Loud +2 @ 400 Bar: Led by a kid named Ben Stein, these local high schoolers surprised everyone at the 400 Bar that night. And it wasn’t just because they’re all super cute — they’re actually a great band, too.
  8. The Redwalls @ Triple Rock: Sure, it’s regurgitated British garage rock, but they know their shit and work their asses off on stage. What more do you want from a band?
  9. Liars @ State Theatre: I was totally unfamiliar with these guys when I saw them open for Interpol. I was very impressed, but their albums don’t live up to their show. So be it.
  10. Andrew Bird @ First Ave & Guthrie: The Guthrie show hasn’t happened yet, but it’s safe to assume that the Birdman will not let me down. The dude does a million things at the same time, how can anyone not be impressed?

For the record

  1. I “lost” or “failed” the National Novel Writing Month. Or, at least, that’s how the hardcore NaNoWriMos would put it. I wrote over 13,000 words in about ten writing sessions throughout November. That’s 13,000 more words of fiction than I’ve written in seven years, so, I feel pretty good about it. I may or may not go back to my story. I have a feeling that editing it will lead to me basically rewriting it since I was going in directions and describing stuff I never would have written if it not for that pesky word count. But the whole thing has definitely renewed my interest in writing.
  2. Lars and the Real Girl” isn’t all that great. It’s not that I found the whole town befriending his non-sexual girlfriend doll unbelievable. What I found unbelievable was the well-to-do African-American family in this Wisconsin small town. I’ve been to many Wisconsin small towns, and grew up in one. I can honestly say that what few African-American families live in those kinds of towns are not that affluent. It reeks of tokenism, and it’s not even used very well. The director or writer could have connected the outsiders: the black family and the dude dating a doll. But that didn’t happen. And I felt like cutie Ryan Gosling was over-acting, though my thespian friend accompanying me wasn’t so sure.
  3. Snow storms on nights when you’re supposed to go play Rock Band SUCK.