Saturday, December 29, 2007
Top 10 in no particular order
The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism.
Young dudes with a banjo (!), earnest lyrics, harmonies -- good songs and melody. They won me over despite the cynical MSE d.j. in me.
Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Get past the sometimes annoying vocal stylings, and you've got arrangements and melodies that are both timeless and cutting edge. Stretching pop music into the late part of the first decade of the '00s.
P. J. Harvey - White Chalk
How can you keep P.J. off your list? I really wanted to the first time I heard her warbling over a piano. But these songs are strong and P.J., once again, morphs into
another excellent version of herself.
Heavy Trash -- Going Way Out with Heavy Trash
There's life after Blues Explosion for Jon Spencer in Heavy Trash. This has some of the JSBX-type hard rock workouts and some rockabilly-ish material. One of two new CDs I played REALLY LOUD in my car this year.
John Doe - A Year in the Wilderness
Mr. Doe really has mastered the concise, deep, well-done, non-repetitive song his last couple albums. Great backup work by the likes of Dave Alvin, Kathleen Edwards and Aimee Mann.
Fever Marlene - Civil War
Milwaukee two-piece that's really cute, really grimy and really good. At times a throwback to pop of the 60's, 70's and 80's and at other times just a damn solid indie-pop/ rock duo for the 2000s.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Baby 81
This is the other CD I played REALLY LOUD in the car during 2007. BRMC got its swagger back in a big way. It's Brit, it's dark, it's glam, it's fantabulous.
Architecture in Helsinki - Places Like This
Australian pop band with 11 snappy songs that are industrious without being too cute. Bonus for clocking in at 31 minutes like a real pop album.
Fiery Furnaces - Widow City
The Furnaces were a bit too "out there" for me on some of their previous work. They're more focused on this one with some of the best techno-rock music and deadpan female vocals around. Funny and cool simultaneously. I have to skip some of the longer Zappa-esque tracks, though.
The Mekons - Natural
I'm partial to the Mekons, but this CD represents a high-quality extension of their new mellow persona. As always, a mix of vocals, songs and arrangements from several singers and writers. Sort of a "Songs from the Wood" for the aging punk generation.
Honorable mention (good but somewhat dissapointing)
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga; New Pornographers - Challengers; Robert Pollard - Coast to Coast Carpet of Love; Low - Drums and Guns
Honorable mention (no asterisk)
The Silos - Come on Like the Fast Lane; Shannon Wright - Let in the Light; Josh Ritter - The Historic Conquests Of; Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans - Tomorrow Sound Now for Yes Music People (did I get that right?)
Friday, December 28, 2007
Enjoyable White Stripes singles. Nothing new, but still solid.
Choice cut: You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)
9. Devendra Banhart – Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
Its not as cohesive as Cripple Crow, but its still my number nine. Choice cuts: The Other Woman, Shabop Shalom and Saved
8. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
Choice cut: Amsterdam. Can't get enough of this song.
7. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
Ahh… Sweet, sincere Scandinavian rock and roll. I love Jens Lekman’s production… I wish Jens Lekman would produce a rap album. Choice cut: A Postcard to Nina
6. Black Lips – Good Bad Not Evil
Retro blues-rock addressing current issues such as hurricane Katrina and how to tell children about death. Will bring a smile to Mick and Keith's stretched out, wrinkly lips.
5. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
This year’s token inde rock dance album. Seriously though, it is good. Choice cut: North American Scum and New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down
4. St. Vincent – Marry Me
My love affair with Feist is officially over. What red blooded heterosexual male can say no to a beautiful woman with a guitar? Choice cut: Marry Me
3. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
This is what the inside of Brain Wilson’s head sounds like right now.
2. Elvis Perkins – Ash Wednesday
Dudes trying to channel John Lennon with those glasses. Choice cuts: While You Were Sleeping and All The Night Without Love
1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
You know their steez. I have never been a Radiohead enthusiast and I think this album is amazing. I am finally on the bandwagon. Choice cut: Body Snatchers
Honorable Mentions (Including a more interesting hip hop selection):
11.Kid Acne – Romance Ain’t Dead
This is whimsical British hip hop with a fat old school boom-bap feel. Eric B & Biz Markie meets Mike Skinner. This guy got his chops as a talented graf writer.
12.Buck 65 – Situation
Buck 65 returns to sharp drums and sophomoric humor on his newest “Situation”. This is a mediocre album, but I can’t stop listening to it. Track 1 is Buck 65’s best intro ever. Choice cut: 1957
13.El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
El-P caliber production that is as dense as ever. Wonderful sound, but the songs are not as digestible or as fresh sounding as those on Fantastic Damage.
14.Field Music – Tones of the Town
Tapes ‘n Tapes meets Billy Joel. Choice cut: A House is Not a Home
15. Elvis Costello – 30 yr Re-release of My Aim Is True
You must get this album. The re-release contains paired down acoustic demo versions of pretty much every song on this album. Choice cut: Blame It On Cain (acoustic demo)
Album of the Year
Lupe Fiasco - The Cool
Lupe waited until 4th quarter to pretty much blow everything else released in 2007 out of the water. A concept album about the streets, music industry, and the struggles between the two made for one of the most cohesive albums in recent memory. Ranging from addressing critics who think he should simply his lyrics and message in the song "Dumb It Down" to speaking on victims of rape in "Intruder Alert" to personifying a hamburger in "Gotta Eat", a song about how cheap fast food impacts the health of poor, Lupe creates an album that is so far left of the mainstream gun, drugs and sex, yet manages to coat this message in appealing production.
Lupe Fiasco - The Coolest
Rapper of the Year
Lil Wayne was everywhere this year - beyond jumping on countless remixes and collaborations, Wayne managed to release a plethora of music (so much so that Vibe magazine released a Top 77 Lil Wayne songs of 2007 list). Whether rapping over original production, other people's songs, or rapping over unconventional hip hop samples (such as The Beatles - Help and Heart - What About Love), Wayne's metaphors, delivery and overall style was miles above the competition.
Lil Wayne - I Feel Like Dyin'
Most Overrated Album Of The Year
Jay Z - American Gangster
I'm sorry, but wanting to listen to this album is about on par with a basketball fan rather watching Michael Jordan Wizards era highlights as opposed to his time with the Bulls. There is nothing new or original on this record that he hasn't done countless times before, yet critics seem like they have to praise it because its *JAY Z*. Also, claiming inspiration from a movie as an excuse for a president of a record label to make it seem ok that he is rapping about guns, drugs, etc is pretty transparent. There are two good songs on here - Roc Boys and Ignorant Shit (which ironically was an outtake from The Black Album).
Jay Z - Ignorant Shit
Worst Album Of The Year
50 Cent - Curtis
I dont have much to say other than this album, or what I allowed myself to listen to was pretty much awful. 50 Cent is rich and famous and that seems to have taken out most of his hunger and originality out of him. His single with Justin Timberlake sounds like his verse was tacked on a throwaway track from Justin's album. How many times can he make the song Magic Stick? (Current total - 3 times). He had a few good songs on the album (such as I Still Kill and I Get Money), but for someone who is supposed to be a superstar, this really isn't cutting it.
50 Cent feat. Justin Timberlake - Ayo Technology
Best Crossover Record
Kanye West - Stronger
50 Cent's record sales rival Kanye West showed 50 how to be commercial, yet maintain artistic credibility with his song Stronger. Sampling Daft Punk made this a record that crossed so many boundries - musicially, geographically, etc. But, without putting any unnecessary thought into it, its a hot record.
Kanye West - Stronger
Funniest Sexual Reference
Cam'ron - Just Us
After trading jabs with 50 Cent via You Tube videos, Cam'ron dropped off the radar for most of 2007, only to return with his 2CD mixtape - Public Enemy No. 1. His single, Just Us, takes inspiration from the Sopranos season finale, sampling Journey and non-chalantly delivers a line that makes me laugh out loud everytime I say it. That line "I gave her a sanchez - yes a dirty one". What a gem!
Collaboration of the Year
CRS - Us Placers
A super group consisting of Pharrel, Lupe Fiasco, and Kanye West, Us Placers uses a sample that you non-hiphop listening, indie rock loving hipsters can identify - Thom Yorke - The Eraser. Originally appearing on Kanye's "Can't Tell Me Nothing" mixtape. This was by far one of the highlights. With a possible full length album in the works in 2008, CRS's first effort has me asking for more.
CRS - Us Placers
Mixtape of the Year
Take your pick
Lil Wayne flooded the market with several great mixtapes, all great in their own way (Carter 3 Sessions, Da Drought 4, Dedication 3, etc). Whether rapping over original beats or one-upping rappers on their beats, Wayne's mixtapes were head and shoulders above the competition.
Lil Wayne - Prostitute Flange
DJ of the Year
DJ Khaled had some of the biggest hits of the year, putting together huge collaboration records and remixes that were smash hits in 2007. We Takin Over, Brown Paper Bag, and I'm So Hood were all in the elite class of posse cuts of 2007.
Dj Khaled - We Takin' Over
So there you go, love it or leave it, that was Dr. Moshe's 2007 Hip Hop awards, adding some much needed musical diversity to the Top 10 Albums blog that I thoroughly enjoyed reading through.
Released on Itunes Street date is January 22nd 2008. Sooo according to the rules its going to be on 'next years' list as the new hot shit.
The Weakerthans are amazing. I honestly love everything they do and generally believe they can do no wrong. John K Samson is one of the most amazing lyricists that I've ever heard. It took me forever to put this disc on my iPod because it just wouldn't come out of my CD Player. On their last release Samson wrote a song from the point of view of his cat, and this disc has another song along those lines. In my opinion it's the standout track, "Virtue The Cat Explains Her Departure"
2. Rocky Votolato - "Brag and Cuss"
My buddy Kyle over at 30music.com put it best: "Songs about drinking, love, family, and traveling are still very much so the focal point of Votolato’s music. It’s nice to have another boozing family man in the independent music community these days (Bazan, youstill drinking a lot?). His vocals are as good as ever, too – clean and raspy, whispery and ever-sweet." Mostly acoustic stuff with random instruments and stuff in the background. Very nice stuff to listen to in any mood. I've gotten many people hooked on Rocky starting with this disc! Recomended starting track is "Postcard From Kentucky"
3. Chuck Ragan - "Feast Or Famine"
Another one of those dudes that was in a rock band that decided to be cool and release a solo disc. Chuck was in Hot Water Music and me being a huge HWM fan I had to check out his solo stuff. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this. I was thinking it was just gonna be HWM stuff but on acoustic guitars, however it is more along the lines of Bob Dylan, but with some more modern influences. All in all I bought 2 releases from him this year (one a live disc called "Los Feliz") and both were fantastic! I would start with the track "For Broken Ears"
4. The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"
So up until the song "Icky Thump" was released I had always been an anti-White Stripes type of guy, but when they released that song I was totally converted. This CD is so well rounded, and the flow of the tracks is also great (something most bands haven't been considering this year I noticed). I really don't know what else to say about this disc, or band, that hasn't been said by everybody already. I also don't have a recomended track because they are all solid! this is white stripes at their best.
5. Maritime - "Heresy And The Hotel Choir"
I love Maritime. Their music is always fun and upbeat, and perfect to listen to on a nice spring day while hanging out at the lakefront. This disc is pretty lryicaly strong and has some great guitar riffs that will get stuck in your head. This is also more well rounded in the full band writing then it has been on previous cd's, which I think shows. Davey and Dan Hinz really do write pretty music together, and Dan Hinz is also one sexy beast! Recomended starting track "For Science Fiction".
6. Skulltime - "Skulltime"
Local band formerly called Wolfbite. This CD starts off better than any disc I have pretty much ever listened to, lofty statement I know but just give it a go. This is a rock band, plain and simple. Full of energy, raw guitar sounds, rock solid bass and drums, and clever vocals. My only beef with this CD is it can't hold a candle to their drunken amazing live shows. If you didn't catch them while they were together, you are SOL! Recomended track "Birthquake"
7. Radiohead - "In Rainbows"
Radiohead's big FU to the industry. This CD needs no explination!
8. Thrice - "The Alchemy Index"
Ok, so this is part of a concept thing they are trying to do, one EP for each element. This release was "Fire" and "Water". The "Fire" part is pretty boring. Loud, aggressive, not very imaginative, not terrible but just not that great. The reason this CD made the list is because of the 2nd EP "Water". It's so brilliant it makes up for the lameness of the first half. This is really down tempo, slower stuff (not typical thrice). Lots of lush digital beats/samples in the background, piano's, layers of vocals. Good stuff. Gary Witt came in the box office once while I was listening to this and it's the first time he ever asked us about who we were listening to and said he liked it, so that must mean something, hahaha...
9. Bloc Party - "A Weekend In The City"
I wasn't sure about this CD at first but the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. Lots of stuff going on like normal, messing with rthyms(sp?) and what not. I don't know, This is just a really enjoyable CD for me and I don't have much more to say about it.
10. Vic Chestnut - "Northstar Deserter"
This disc is eeire. Honestly gives me the creeps a bit. Vic's voice is amazingly haunting and so full of emotion. This CD would not be good to listen to if you are feeling a bit down/depressed 'cause it'll pretty much just make ya worse. I reviewed this disc for 30music.com so if you wanted to read my full opinion about it I would go there. But to some this disc up "Beautifully haunting"
Honorable Mention: The Octopus Project - "Hello, Avalanche"
There you go man! There are lots of little demo's and stuff that I've heard this year too but I don't count those as albums. Able Baker Fox (ex Small Brown Bike, ex Casket Lottery) was listened to much, but their album doesn't come out till Jan/Fed I think. Most of this year was spent listening to The Weakerthans and The Casket Lottery and The Appleseed Cast.
The perfect companion to Sean Penn's heart-moving film. Vedder's approach is somewhat Dylanesque, providing lush instrumentals and introspective lyrics throughout a half hour of tunes that are easily just as moving as the film they were made for. It brought a smile to my face when i heard Hard Sun on the good ol' 102.1.
9. Band of Horses / Cease to Begin
Nothing reminds me more of the great Neil Young than this band (of crazy horses? heh).
8. Capgun Coup / Brought To You by Nebraska Fish
Saw this band open for Mr. Conor Oberst in October and i must say i wasn't too impressed at the time, but i recently aquired this album and my opinion was completely changed. Just listen to "Uh Huh" and you'll see what i mean.
7. The Crimea / Secrets of the Witching Hour
I heard about this band in the ever so informative Rolling Stone. The album is free to download off the band's website, which prompted me to do so. My first and only reaction was: "How is this band not huge?" The makings of a new Oasis... minus the fighting Gallagher brothers. Bombay Sapphire Coma is extremely catchy.
6. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club / Baby 81
Two years since the folk tinged Howl, BRMC goes back to their shoegazing roots, sounding more like a disgruntled Jesus and Mary Chain than ever, while still keeping the unplugged aspect on a few tracks. Peter Hayes just may be the most underrated guitar player of this day and age. This band is named after Marlon Brando's motorcycle gang in The Wild One for crying out loud... that in itself should spark enough curiosity in this band's music. I got my favorite librarian hooked on these guys if thats any consolation.
5. Spoon / Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
One of the biggest reasons this album makes the list is because I was lucky enough to see Spoon at summerfest in the first row, which resulted in me meeting my girlfriend. True love amidst indie legends and a really catchy single in "The Underdog"... I thank you Mr. Britt Daniel for making ME a target in what turned out to be one of the greatest moments of my adolescent life. Also many thanks to Dave Iwinski (who is very reminiscent of Stephen Malkmus) for so graciously giving me Farewell Scalar stickers to hand out during Spoon's show. pssst listen to them: www.farewellscalar.com
4. Handsome Furs / Plague Park
Dan Boeckner's Wolf Parade side project with his wife very narrowly edged out the other Wolf Paradee' Spencer Krug and his new Sunset Rubdown album for the number 4 spot. Words cano describe the effect this album has had on me. "Dead + Rural" speaks to me like no other song in the 07' catalog.
" there's emotion in the eye
then a color in the sky
there's no worry to be found
beating life, repeating sound"
3. The Arcade Fire / Neon Bible
it is no suprise that Neon Bible makes the top 3. i remember buying this album the day it came out and i swear i must have listened to "Intervention" at least a thousand times since then. Their episode on Austin City Limits even further convinced me that this band is absolutely STELLAR
" Working for the Church while your family dies
You take what they give you and you keep it inside
Ever spark of friendship and love will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan, "We'll go at it alone" "
speaks for itself.
2. Bright Eyes / Cassadaga
while scrolling through the blogspot i have noticed mixed feelings about this album. I for one, had high expectations going into it... and perhaps seeing Conor Oberst twice at the Pabst theater helped Cassadaga take the number 2 spot. I am huge Bright Eyes fan... nothing will obviously come close to Lifted... but Cassadaga is easily one of the most accessible albums Conor Oberst has ever put out... (not to mention the slew of guests that appear over the course of the album). I will not be one to say that Conor Oberst is the new Bob Dylan or that Cassadaga is an attempt at being the new Wilco, but i will say that Conor Oberst deserves all of the attention he receives. Cassadaga... in all its glory... is only a fraction of what i truly think Conor is capable of. Heres to many more wonderful Bright Eyes albums in the future:
1. Two Gallants / Two Gallants
What can I say? This album... unlike any other... is a true voice and sound of America. Take my word for it.
I'm not one for closing statements, but there was truly a plethora of great music released this year. Many albums that I have enjoyed did not make the list... only because i chose the ones that affected me in the most personal of ways. Take my 17 year old opinion how you will, for i know that i still have much to learn in the world of indie music. Heres a list of honorables that i can think of right now:
Some Loud Thunder by Clap Your Hands Say yeah
In Rainbows by Radiohead
Sky Blue Sky by Wilco
Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective
Icky Thump by The White Stripes
Fort Nightly by White Rabbits
Favourite Worst Nightmare by Arctic Monkeys
...and many more that i am forgetting indefinitely.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
As I look back at my list, it is clear I am on the look out for good, new rock, and have found better “old” records than new stuff. My list feels just a cut above the mainstream. And that’s ok I guess. Hopefully, it is just an indication that good music is becoming PART of the mainstream.
So other than trying to figure out what Cloverfield was about, I listened to some records and saw some shows.
#10- Ga ga ga ga- Spoon
“You have no fear of the underdog, that’s why you will not survive.”
One of the better lyrics of 07. I am coming to Spoon later than most, and I am enjoying it and them very much.
#9- The Good the bad the Queen
My love of the history song puts this up there. We will just call this band the John Wesley Harding band meets the Goriliaz- or Blur minus Oasis?
#8- The end has a start- Editors
So this band keeps getting compared to Interpol and I do not hear it. ‘Smoker outside the hospital’ is a great song, as is ‘All Sparks’. I hear more of a poor man’s U2 than anything to do with Interpol….. I like Interpol. They do not sound like Interpol.
Good record. Worthy of a spin.
#7- The Boxer- The National
I know many have this on their list. I enjoy this record. It is worthy of Top Ten status.
#6- Cassadaga- Bright eyes
I know this was left off a lot of lists, which is surprising. I liked this record quite a bit. ‘Kill or be Killed’ is a great statement song, ‘When the Brakeman turns my way’ is a very, very catchy tune and overall, I like this one.
#5- Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
#4- Sky Blue Sky- Wilco
“The More I think about, the more I know it is true…” this is a TOP TEN record. Front to back, this is the Niles Cline party. Having seen them live here in Chicago really cemented this in my mind as more than a record, but as a fine piece of art as well. ‘Walken’ is great, the title track is cool…. ‘Hate it Here’, and my favorite, ‘Shake if Off’. Solid record. We should give credit where credit is due.
#3- I’m not there- Motion Picture Soundtrack
A soundtrack? Really? Does that qualify?
Well, I don’t care because this double cd of Bob Dylan songs is wonderful, especially since some of the arrangements are so true to the original, while others are so unique. From Cat Power to Sufjan, Jeff Tweedy to Eddie Vedder, and especially seeing Steve Malkmus on here about 4x, I have enjoyed this two disc set very much.
#2- In rainbows- Radiohead
More for the way it which it was sold than the music itself, this is an important record. ‘Faux arp’is my favorite. Close second with ‘Video tape’.
And now….. my number one….. Which is 10% based on his wonderful rock show put on at the Chicago theater……
#1- Chrome Dreams 2- Neil Young
The story behind this record is interesting. A collection of songs never released, similar to Brian Wilson’s Smile or some cassette tape laying around in Aberdeen Washington with Kurt Cobain mumbling on, Neil Young has had the luxury of revisiting his past. And this record delivers!
Let’s start from the top, ‘Beautiful Bluebird’ and ‘Boxcar’ are vintage Neil Young and get the record off to a nice, peaceful start. And then BAM!---- this nice grove hits in track three… and never ends. I mean it really goes on forever. Then eighteen minutes later, ‘Ordinary people’ wraps. The horns never let up and the lyrics are solid here.
Next comes ‘Shinning Light’ and ‘The Believer’, which are good but worth skipping to get to “Spirit Road’. The dirty guitar grove leads into arguably the crux of the record… as we all travel, we need to never compromise what we believe in. Heard that about Neil Young before?
‘Dirty old man’ is popular but I don’t care for it too much. And then, another great guitar drive tune, ‘No hidden path’. This is my favorite song on the record.
The closing song, ‘The Way’ is the best closing song, creative and driven, on any record in 2007.
All in all, Chrome Dreams II is the best record of 2007.
Hey there friends
The Top Ten 10 Party is THIS FRIDAY!!!
lots of you have already posted your lists for our viewing pleasure at: http://lettershomefromcamp.blogspot.com
if you haven't.... there's still time to post!!! (or you can just post at the party... either way!
This being the 2nd year of the Party (and the 5th official year of listing) I always get a number of people who are slightly intimidated by the whole idea of the event (because let's face it...it's a little weird)
so... hopefully the below should answer a few questions you might have (and of course sway your decision to attend!)
Join me and a plethora of cool people for:
The Top Ten Albums of 2007 Listening & Party in the Pabst Theater Pub Fri Dec 28 at 8pm
*come directly up to the pub & knock on the glass door....somebody will let ya in
It will be:
-People talking about, debating & sharing their favorite music from the past year
-Free Drinks! (yeah!)
-A chance to participate in this years "Mix CD Exchange"
-Guest DJ slots
-Your list on public display for all to critique and appreciate!
-A celebration of great music for a great year!!
Suggested things to bring:
-Your top ten list!
-Your top ten albums or an MP3 player loaded up with them...for YOUR guest DJ set
-Mix CDs with your fave tracks of the year to exchange with others (the more Mixes you make... the more you receive.... get it?)
-Friends who enjoy music as much as you do!
and of course... answers to all of you questions
Top Ten Party Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Q: Do I really have to bring all 10 of my CDs AND make Mix CDs? I don't have hard copies of all of them, my friend borrowed the other three, I only download, etc etc etc.....
A: No....Not really. The Important thing is that you show up ready & willing to talk music! (perhaps with an idea of your list too!) Bringing hard copies of all 10 of your CDs to DJ with plus Mix CDs to exchange with you friends would be uber cool of you, however if not possible, maybe bring the music you're most emphatic that other people need to hear. If you show up empty handed... no worries....just be ready to have the know-it-alls fill your brain!
2. Q: Is it cool if my list is less than 10 CDs long?
A: Yes (but you really only had 3 CDs you liked this year?!). Lists varying in length are OK....10 is the gold standard....5 gets you a B+.....3 gets a B-.....grades don't go lower than B-
3. Q: How much are drinks?
A: Free (self explanatory)
4. Q: So really...what is it? I've never been to one of these?!
A: It's a music nerd's dream come true! Last year we posted all of the lists around the room, on giant sized post-it notes & everybody talked loads of music until the wee hours of the night & we had a great time discussing, listening, comparing notes & reflecting on our favorite musical moments of the year.
5. Q: Do I get to Guest DJ?! That sounds like fun!!
A: Yes! Just show up at the DJ table & we'll get you a slot to control house music!!
6. Q: Can I bring a friend, date, pet, etc?
A: Of Course! The more the merrier!! Friends of friends totally welcome! (it is the Pabst too, so if you feel the need to bring your toy poodle "spike"....we're cool with that.
7: Q: Can I bring my laptop, MP3 player....other stuff?
A: Yes!! Anything you can do to make things more interesting, easy & accessible including but not limited to laptops, MP3 players, etc are all welcome and encouraged.
8: Q: Will there be CD Burning?? I heard it was a bootleg-a-palooza....
A: NO!!! This is a celebration of music & a chance to hang with other music lovers like you.... Last year we had the burning as an option & nobody did it anyway as we just talked music, drank & listened all night . The burning turned out to be too complicated for most people (not to mention illegal). You SHOULD bring some copies of mix CDs though & have a listen for albums you should acquire later on (whether through scrupulous or unscrupulous means.... that's your business)
9. Q: And the Mix CD Exchange? What's with that?
A: Well.... if you wanna Mix, ya gotta make Mix I'd suggest you make about 5-10 CDs with track listings included & when you get to the party, swap your CDs for the tastiest mixes you can find.
10: Q: I've got other Questions! I'm like...a little nervous to come....seems weird....whatever....
A: Dude..just drop me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Although...you should really just show up to see what it's all about!! Don't worry too much about the "What Should I Bring" ,"I don't have a list" or "How's it going to run" stuff! It's going to be a great way to finish off the year & spend your friday night!!
anyway...hope to see you there!!
2. Jens Lekman / Night Falls Over Kortedala : How can you not love these lyrics?
3. The National / Boxer : I'll probably still be listening to this album 5 years from now. It's a keeper.
4. New Pornographers / Challengers : The only album all year I can listen to 24-7
5. Feist / The Reminder : 1234 was my favorite song all year.
6. Iron & Wine / The Shepherd's Dog : I think this is Sam's finest work so far.
7. Amy Winehouse / Back To Black : Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and Beehives
8. Arcade Fire / Neon Bible : Solid and polished. Round two takes it's time to hit the wow factor. But it gets there.
9. Yeasayer / All Hour Cymbals : Global music that lots of people like .......finally.
10. Ryan Adams / Easy Tiger : Can't explain, I just like it.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
1. rilo kiley - under the blacklight
2. the new pornographers - challengers
3. the arcade fire - neon bible
4. radiohead - in rainbows
5. tori amos - american doll posse
6. the 1900s - cold & kind
7. tegan & sara - the con
8. okkervil river - the stage names
9. interpol - our love to admire
10. band of horses - cease to begin
bright eyes - cassadaga
rosie thomas - these friends of mine
the shins - wincing the night away
arctic monkeys - favourite worst nightmare
[narrowly] meets expectations...
bloc party - a weekend in the city
rivers cuomo - alone
jens lekman - blahblah long title gross
might as well not have tried to meet expectations, i hate you...
andrew bird - armchair apocrypha
and since flashy graphics aren't mandatory, i'm OUT!
abby e oasen
CDs that would make me really pissed
if they didn’t exist this year
Amy Winehouse / Back To Black
This one seemed to come out of nowhere. A unique, soulful voice with perfect phrasing. A hot horn section and band. Awesome originals and arrangements. If you’re put off by all the media about Amy’s drug and other troubles, join the club. But don’t let that keep you from listening. If she survives the personal and media onslaughts and keeps cranking out great CDs, she’ll be a classic.
Jason Isbell / Sirens in the Ditch
I’m not familiar with CDs by the band he just left, the Drive-By Truckers, but the positive media about this debut solo CD got me to pick it up, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The tunes are thoughtful, soulful, country-oriented gems. His voice has a bit of rasp that makes the delivery sincere. And the writing is top notch. Recorded at Muscle Shoals. Check out this scaled-down live version of a beautiful song about the war. (The CD version is better.)
Wilco / Sky Blue Sky
With its latest CD, Wilco and leader Jeff Tweedy prove they’ve found solid ground. Sky Blue Sky is infused with the comfort that Tweedy has finally found in his music and from all accounts in his life. But don't equate comfort with boring – no, this CD really rocks. Bringing Tweedy's latest vision to life is guitarist Nels Cline, known mainly as an avant garde jazz player. Nels brings amazing virtuoisity and creativity to the Wilco rock world, both on this CD but more importantly in great live performances they've been giving on their current tour. Some great live video of one song at: http://wilcoworld.net/acl//
CDs that really helped make 2007
Ryan Adams / Easy Tiger
This is the year I discovered Ryan Adams after not really paying much attention to his CDs sleeping in my collection. After seeing a great show at Red Rocks in Denver this summer, I woke up those CDs, and I bought this new record. It's full of hook-filled songs, great production and backup work.
The New Pornographers / Challengers
I go for the New Pornographers mainly for vocalist Neko Case. This CD shines because of her – but also because of A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar and the other Pornos. Some great tunes and captivating hooks.
Lily Allen / Alright, Still
Here’s a case where substance lives up to hype. Lily’s songs are clever and fun. The production and arrangements by Mark Ronson (producer of much of Amy Winehouse’s CD) hit the mark. Her songs are full of great situations lyrical twists. The songs reflect her life. Was I ever this young? [Note: Ronson's own 2007 Version CD of covers is definitely worth getting if you like the CDs I've listed by Amy and Lily. It's mainly great instrumentals, but the two singers are also featured on a cut apiece.]
Rilo Kiley / Under The Blacklight
This CD seemed at first a bit too shiny, smart and topical for me. But after a few listens, the tight and rocking Rilo prove to be improving on their sound. Jenny is singing as well as ever, and co-leader / guitarist / co-writer Blake Sennett's major role here offers Ms. Lewis a better foundation than her fine but less unique solo outing last year.
Maji / Christmas Dreams
I’m partial to this holiday CD in part because I’ve been doing PR for this project. It’s a great CD if you like Christmas music at all. Several songs appear to be future Christmas classics. They’re all either written, sung, produced and / or performed by Joe Puerta, a Milwaukee resident who rose to fame as a founding member of Ambrosia and Bruce Hornsby and the Range. A great singer, bass player and producer, Joe pulled together a group of top Milwaukee musicians and his friend and songwriter Bill Pfordrescher. Contributors include John Sieger, Robin Pluer, Grace Weber, John Calarco and Dave Adler. All but two songs are originals. Hear two of the best songs and watch their really cool videos:
And two more equals ten
Feist / The Reminder
Leslie Feist’s smoky singing, catchy tunes and fun arrangements make this her best CD to date. Don't hold it against her that this CD is a hit and all over TV thanks to the iPod Nano ad featuring "1234." Even indie artists deserve a break now and then. If you've seen the ad and want a laugh, check this out:
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss / Raising Sand
The concept held no interest to me, but after hearing a couple of tracks online, I got it. Their voices blend marvelously, and the groovy vibe courtesy of producer T. Bone Burnett makes this irresistible. Don't think "Stairway to Heaven" here. If you do, you'll be surprised.
And two great singles worth listening to:
Mike Fredrickson / "Cecille"
From Poor Freddy's Almanac, the 2007 release by our great Milwaukee songwriter, bassist, vocalist and painter. Superior pop writing, this one has melodies and lyrics that lock into your brain and don't let go. Available at CD Baby.
Cannonball Jane / "Take It To Fantastic"
New York Magazine calls her a "one-woman New York punk-funk project." Listen to this when the Milwaukee snow is flying and you're ready for summer already (like now). Sampled Cuban horns and a killer guitar riff take me to the Caribbean, by way of Brooklyn. From Knees Up! EP. Get at eMusic.
- 1. The National, Boxer
Not much is said about how much Matt Berninger’s darkly funny and slightly perverse lyrics on Boxer are about food and beverages. He sings about “baking a cake or something” (“Racing Like A Pro”), standing at the “punch bowl swallowing punch” (“Slow Show” which has the other awesome redundant lyric – “I better get my shit together, better gather my shit”), making “nice icy drinks” (“Gospel”), and putting “a little something in our lemonade” (“Fake Empire”). Mmmm, who’s ready for happy hour and hor d'oeuvres?! Nonetheless, these little culinary schemes are for me what make Boxer the best album of 2007. They are semi-sad attempts to add excitement and meaning to the banal “unmagnificent lives of adults” or are at least a way to keep unfulfilled longings at bay amidst a late night setting of corporate party decadence. Not enough can be said about Berninger’s lyrics: whether he is getting his rocks off by spying on his friends (“Green Gloves”) or trying not to think about his male anatomy (“Slow Show”), their understated absurdness makes this album even more honest. Also, the music with its delicate full sound, driving drums, and minimalist horn arrangements capture and heighten this existential anxiousness. Overall, Boxer is a dark, educated critique of finding truth and your bearings in the yuppiness of adulthood.
I paid about the price of a Qdoba burrito for In Rainbows. It was a gamble because Radiohead, with their last few albums, have only released about 4 ½ decent songs in the last 7 years which puts them on the “Dollar Menu” in my book. But at about 3am on Oct 10th after 1½ songs into In Rainbows, I officially declared to who ever cared at that hour on IM that it was the best Radiohead album in ten years. Radiohead dropped the whole pompous bloated proggy blahness of their last couple records and then realized how great and still weird they can be by being straightforward. In Rainbows shows how vibrant and refreshing it is to hear the guitars plucking and bending out the songs’ melodies backing Thom Yorke’s falsetto whew wee! But, the real secret weapon here is Phil Selway’s percussion which gives this band back its pulse. All of these factors coalesce on the transcendent voodoo vibin’ “Reckoner,” the menacing bass heavy “All I Need,” and the freak out insanity of “Bodysnatchers.” Also great, is the way “House of Cards” sounds like Radiohead’s version of The Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend” and how “Faust Arp” sounds like anything the Beatles did with acoustic guitars and a string section. In the end, In Rainbows is more satisfying than most $6 burritos.
Big ups to James Murphy for sounding like Bowie and Roxy Music! LCD Soundsystem’s first album didn’t do much for me, but the mammoth monumental tracks on Sound of Silver held me hostage for 2007. Like The National’s Boxer, Sound of Silver navigates through and struggles with adulthood and how life even has lessons for the hippest of the hipsters. On Sound of Silver, James Murphy recounts escaping old friends only to try to reconnect with them when they have moved on or faded away (“All My Friends”), exorcizes the ghost town ruins left by old relationships (“Someone Great”), and then even seems to warn against the exact reminiscing of the past that he does on the album (“Sounds of Silver” with those real life emotional teenagers). Elsewhere, Murphy speaks to the most general issues in the broadest way but it comes off as so damn cool and infectious on tracks like “Us vs. Them” (when is not us vs. them?!), the International Relations 101 of “North American Scum,” and whatever the hell he is talking about on the sweet “Get Innocuous."
This album is ranked here due to the sheer number of times I listened to it in the first 8 months of the year. Peter Bjorn & John are like a group of goofy euro tour guides or Travel Channel show hosts where they guide you all through
Breakout star of the new Millennium, Feist, delivered some of the most infectious songs of the year on The Reminder. This album had confectionary rockers like “1234” and songs like “My Moon, My Man,” “Sea Lion Woman,” and the smoldering “The Limit of Your Love” where Feist hits her stride. However, songs like “Honey Honey,” “Brandy Alexander,” and “The Water” show how The Reminder has an ethereal side where the songs percolate like ether. Also, I was impressed by what a natural talent Feist is in her live shows.
Night Falls on Kortedala feels like this year’s The Life Pursuit where the album is bright orchestrated pop with lyrics about small everyday dramas and heartbreak. Jens Lekman delivers this album with dry wit and a literate sense of humor as if he is a screenwriter creating these funny scenarios and dilemmas for his juxtaposing characters. The music with its layered samples and Jens’s crooning has a feel of winning a trip to
This is my sleeper hit album of the year. Boxer and The Good, The Bad & The Queen are the albums I have listen to most this year where tracks from both albums are over the 50 play count mark on my ipod. Basically, this album goes to the same sonic tailor as Boxer for its suits. Instead of actively grabbing, the songs on this album have an understated pull that continually seeps under your skin into you like carbon monoxide until it becomes as familiar as your favorite pub (where you’re probably drinking a pint o’ lager in a top hat). Musically, this album has the same gloomy glitchy feel as its cousin Gorillaz Demon Days but Damon Albarn and producer Danger Mouse drop that album’s hip hop samples in favor of retro British folk like Fairport Convention and Pentangle. Also, The Good, The Bad & The Queen puts on a great display of Paul siminom’s bass and Albarn’s vocals.
As the band of choice for guys that wear button down shirts and slacks, Spoon is one of indie’s most reliant standby groups. With GaGaGaGaGa ^nth, they released one of the most consistent and solid albums of the year which has some of the best pop songs of 2007 with “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” “Finer Feelings,” and “Black Like Me.” Am I wrong or is “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” about cocaine?
On this solid album, The Fiery Furnaces come off as one of the best funk bands around while also one of the weirdest groups of any genre. On “Automatic Husband” and “The Philadelphia Grand Jury,” they make beats tighter than anything Timbaland or Pharrell can charge top dollar for. Yet their eclectic, strange songs seem like Paul McCartney writing songs for the Fall or vice versa where they go from tense angular funk to playschool death metal to a Wings or Belle & Sebastian type of airy melodies and cover every kind classic rock convention in between. On top of that, Eleanor Friedberger is on of the most charismatic female lead singers today where she radiates a confident strut on the enigmatic “Cabaret of the Seven Devils,” a demure femininity on the beautiful “My Egyptian Grammar,” and a weary but determined narrative on “Restorative Beer.”
Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
The Field, From Here We Go Sublime
Deerhunter, Crytograms / Fluorescent Grey (EP)
New Pornographers, Challengers
Les Savy Fav, Let’s Stay Friends
Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
Panda Bear, Person Pitch
Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam
Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Honorable Mention: Liars- Liars
Liars are a band that's made me realize the difference between liking and appreciating. I always sort of like the Liars albums (except the 1st one- that's just great), but I always appreciate them immensely. I honestly don't know if they simply follow their own muse, or if they aim to piss people off and defy expectations. In a strange way, they're the modern equivalent of Tim Buckley. Both artists changed styles so frequently and to such a radical degree that people gave up following them, one album never predicted what the next would sound like, they were both unafraid to make something completely unlistenable, and neither seemed to care a lick. This album is their most straight-up collection of songs since They Threw Us All In a Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top, so they drench them in noise and squall. I'm not sure how much I like it, but I certainly do appreciate it.
10: Patrick Wolf- The Magic Position
I'd pretty much stayed away from Patrick Wolf up to this point. After listening to this album, I'm not entirely sure why that was. Wolf's melodic sense is rivaled by only a select few, and clearly comes from a lifetime (short as that is for him) of musical theater. Crashing drums, piano, violin, and electronic ephemera round out one of the more inventive pop albums of the year. It's dense enough to reward multiple listens, whether you're digging through multiple layers on headphones or putting it through big cabinet speakers and letting yourself drown in it.
9: Ted Leo/Pharmacists- Living with the Living
This is probably Leo's weakest album with the Pharmacists, which means it's only better than 95% of the releases this year, rather than 99%. Filler like "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb." is unnecessary, and this is Leo's first album with serious pacing problems- the third quarter couldn't drag any more if it had a club foot. But songs such as "Sons of Cain," "Army Bound," and "Bottle of Buckie" are future staples, and he's written one of his best songs ever in "La Costa Brava." I'm starting to worry that Leo's well is running dry- his albums have become somewhat predictable, and there's a certain formula to his songs. Then again, Coca-Cola is a formula too. Sometimes, they work.
8: Andrew Bird- Armchair Apocrypha
This album seems much more straightforward than Mysterious Production of Eggs- the instrumentation seems simpler, and it lacks the elliptical song structures of the aforementioned album. But somehow, AA manages to sound like a direct sequal to MPOE. It's as if Bird is a director in rehearsal for a play. MPOE is the restrained take on a scene, and it works. But then Bird steps back and implores the actors to try it one more time, raw, more energetic, more free, as if Bird said "Let's rub some sandpaper on the edges." That rendition became Armchair Apocrypha.
7: The White Stripes- Icky Thump
I liked Elephant less and less the more I listened to it, and I could do withouth everything after track two on Get Behind Me Satan. Now, this is the White Stripes- all told, there isn't much variation album to album. So what makes this better then? Well, the songs sound like more effort was put into them. The lyrics are better, sharper, more pointed. The guitar parts are also better- the riffs sound like they were toyed and tinkered with to make sure they're in the best possible configuration, rather than rushed out onto tape half-baked. But mostly, there's a sneer to this album that's been missing since White Blood Cells. Some tracks recaptured it briefly- "Ball and a Biscuit" comes to mind- but I can't imagine Jack White with anything but a scowl on his face recording these tracks. That attitude carries the album above their last few efforts (y'know, along with the more developed songwriting).
6: Twilight Sad- Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters
This album sounds like peering through a cold, frosty windowpane into someone's innermost thoughts and feelings. There's no veneer to the lyrics at all- no metaphors, nothing is fashionably obtuse. The singer just says what he means. And the music- whether quiet piano and slide guitar, or fuzzed out bass and crashing drums, or more often both- is always in service of the intended emotion. There's a sonic eruption to match the emotional catharsis on every song. It's a short album, but like a teenager the emotion burns white-hot in about six different directions, making it one of the most engaging listens of the year.
5: Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
Second albums always get the shaft. Everyone will remember Funeral, bursting on the scene making a grand, new statement with energy and youthful enthusiasm. But Neon Bible is a more purposeful work, made by a tighter band. It hangs together better than Funeral, with a more cohesive sound. The songs aren't a slouch either- "No Cars Go," "Keep the Car Running," and "The Well and The Lighthouse" to name a few- are as good as anything on their first album. The same thing happened with the Shins, the Strokes, and any number of other bands. Unless the second is a real classic, either a better distillation of basic elements or a quantum leap forward, it loses out to the sheer novelty of the first album. I hope this isn't one of those cases.
4: Of Montreal- Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
There's one story that explains better than anything else why I like this album. As I mentioned above, my stereo broke some months back. Basically, it stopped reading CD's. So one night I flip it on, just to see if it'll read anything. It manages to pick up one album that's already in there, so I pressed play. A burst of synthesizers came from my speakers. I couldn't place the album- it sounded like 70's glam mixed with 80's synth-pop (the good kind), like a lost classic I hadn't realized I'd ever found. It wasn't until about fifteen minutes into the album that I'd remembered I'd bought the new Of Montreal album, and that this was it. This album will eventually belong to the same pantheon as Love's Forever Changes, an album that's not famous but loved and respected by people in the know.
3: LCD Soundsystem- Sound of Silver
This album could have been "All My Friends" and 30 minutes of barn noises and it still would have cracked my top 10. But we get "North American Scum" and "Time to Get Away" and the rest of James Murphy's A-game too? It's really not fair that one person should be this good with rhythm, but at least we get to reap the sonic benefits.
2: M.I.A.- Kala
I'm not sure what I could say about this album, or how I would describe it, that would be new and unique. International Block Party, Third World Hip-Hop, yada yada yada. It's all true. This album just makes me want to move. But more than that it's interesting to listen to, assuming you can sit still long enough to give it a good listen. The beats are so thick, so dense, that getting all the way through them requires a machete. And whether or not you like M.I.A.'s revolution-chic lyrics, she has the ability to perfectly mesh her flow into the beat, creating a rhythm experience unlike anyone else.
1: Jens Lekman- Night Falls Over Kortedala
I'm a sucker for good pop music, and right now few people are better at creating a pop song than Jens Lekman. His melodic gifts are extraordinary, and his lyrics are as witty and touching on the thirtieth listen as they are on the first. As if that weren't enough, Lekman deftly integrates samples of other's music into his own songs, and does so well enough that it can be tough to figure out where his writing ends and others' begins. "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar," with it's disco flute hook, and "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo," where the chorus segues perfectly into the sax part, illustrate this well. But those aren't even his best songs. The bouncing, gee-whiz-won't-anything-go-right "Opposite of Hallelujah" and the vivid short story "A Postcard for Nina"- dear God what an amazing song- are the sort of song that most songwriters would kill to be able to write once. Lekman wrote an entire album of them.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
No particular order:
1. Arcade Fire-Funeral
Alright we'll just get this one out of the way. Just an amazing follow up.
2. The Evens-Get Evens
I am a huge fan of Ian MacKaye. Almost anything he puts out is very good. This is a two piece with his girlfriend, which sound bad. But they've been able to pull me in with their two Dischord releases.
3. The Hives-Black and White Album
L.O.V.E the H.I.V.E.S. This is one of those bands that I thought their albums were ok, until I saw them live! Now whenever I hear a new album or track of theirs I just get goosebumps thinking about hearing Almqvist screaming it at the top of his lungs. The best live band out there right now.
4. Kayne West-Graduation
He is the best hip hop artist of my generation.
5. King of Leon-Because of the Times/Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-Baby 81
Am I cheating, meh, this is basically the same album As I am a sucker for girls with blond hair, I am a SUCKER for straight up rock and roll. These bands are not doing anything special but that doesn't mean I can't spin these records until my roommates hate me.
6. Ryan Adams-Easy Tiger
I was avoiding this album until someone I trusted told me I HAD to listen. So I did, and damn it, Ryan got me again. From the first track "Goodnight Rose" you know this guy has still got the touch.....even sober.
7. Radiohead-In Rainbows
Much like Arcade Fire people have said enough about this one. But it's very good, what a band.
8. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists-Living with the Living
Not a huge Ted Leo fan but he really got me with this album. Just great, simple pop songs.
9. White Stripes-Icky Thump
Jack White is one of the best musicians we are seeing in my generation. Hopefully Meg can get back out on the road soon.
10. Dax Riggs-We Sing of Only Blood or Love
Keep on eye on this guy. Formerly of deadboy and the elephantmen, this album continues his dirty, bluesy, lo fi version of rock, and it's quite amazing.
Oh yeah and check out a little band called Ha Ha Tonka, Buckle in the Bible Belt. I think they are going to be huge someday:) Sorry, it is the album I've spent the most time with in '07 so I couldn't do an end of the year list without giving it some sort of shout.
9.Ian Ball Who Goes There?- Of all the bands who’s front man decided to release a solo record this year, I believe that Ian Ball kind of got lost in the shuffle with the bigger names but this is hands down the best of them all. Ball delivers a melody filled album that displays a lot of his strengths with his instrumentation and strong hook driven lyrics. Ball very much understands how to write a pop driven record, from the opening keyboard notes that takes us into the gentle “Sweet Sweet Sleep” to the extremely poppy chorus and somewhat uplifting ode to the white collard man “Failure,” Ball knows where to draw an audience in. The songs are filled with post-break ups and self examinations of what went right in relationships, and what went wrong. One of the two huge highlights on the record is “The Elephant Pharmacy” which is almost like a gentler and lighter “Drug Buddy” from the Lemonheads, which has Ball reminiscing of things that seemed to work well in a relationship, including the line, “Lets go shopping for some drugs/that will keep an Elephant tranquilized.” Apparently being in a comatose state is fun with your other half. The other highlight is the somewhat experimental and argumentative “Who Goes First?” With it’s almost eleven minute output you can sense a lot of anger and sadness in the song both musically and lyrically of a relationship that has run it’s course. Overall a very nice output from the Gomez singer/guitarist who uses humor and honesty to create one of the nicest solo releases of the year.
8. Warm in the Wake American Prehistoric- If Wilco and the Shins were able to have children, these guys would be it. They manage to combine the elements of spacey folk and muddy guitar rock and make a beautiful record laden with terrific storytelling and great guitar hooks. There a lot of standout elements in this record. For one the pounding and phenomenal drumming of James Taylor Jr.(no relation to the actual James Taylor) really carries a lot of the songs and is brought a lot into the forefront of the mixes. Right from the very beginning on the tremendously smashing single “American Prehistoric” you can hear the ferocity and force he puts into the rhythm section of the group. But he also knows where to calm his spots and just gently carry a song. The keyboard work done by Daniel Barker is also equally outstanding. There are spots when he just simply plays a beautiful piano lead like on “Devil With A Fist ” and “Tantrum,” or adds a spacey loopy effect driven lead like “Dark Gypsy Moth” it’s clear that his playing is one of the ear catchers of the record. Not overlooking Chris Rowell, his gentle voice adds a real nice smoothness to the flow of the record. It never seems to lack emotion but it never strays from a familiar recognizable pitch that makes it easy for the listener to really take in the songs. His voice has a way of making even the sadder songs on the record such “Joseph Campbell” or “Antique Knives” sound delightful and compelling to listen to. All in all, a very good sophomore release from the Atlanta based quartet.
7. Josh Ritter The Historical Conquest of Josh Ritter- It may have one of the most pompous titles of the year, but Josh Ritter has been able to capitalize on the popularity of The Animal Years and deliver a solid outing that is filled with rocking alt-country tunes, 70’s sounding pop rock gems, and beautiful ballads that has been able to help establish Ritter as not just another Dylan sounding songwriter, but an artist with the ability to deliver great songs in a wide musical variety and complexity. “To The Dogs Or Whoever” starts the record off with a very lo-fi alt-country feel to it. It has a great sing along chorus that feels as if you and your buddies just got pissed up at the pub and decided to start a sing along, or a shout along if you will have it. But then the album moves into a gentler and listener friendly direction as the next couple of songs sound as if they were 70’s pop rock tunes such as “Minds Eye” and “Right Moves.” “The Temptation of Adam” is probably the best story telling song on the record as it tells of a boy and girl who are hiding in a missile silo and eventually the boy charms the girl who had a certain disdain for him to begin with. “Rumors” is definitely the most radio friendly song on the record that is very reminiscent of Ryan Adams. The rest of album is filled with acoustic ballads and more 70’s inspired pop rock songs. Ritter has gotten a bad wrap for imitating his influences a little too closely, if anything this album shows us that Ritter is able to expand on those influences and create wonderfully crafted songs that have both commercial and artistic appeal.
6. Tegan and Sara The Con- Ever since I saw these girls open for Ben Folds back in 2003 I have always known they were destined to explode on to the pop music scene. The Con is their finest record to date and really shows the growth and depth they are able to add to their records. There is not a single song on the record that doesn’t have a hook or some kind of device that sticks into your head for days. Although the record is well written by the sisters, some of the credit has to go to Chris Walla. His production work and genius behind the control board adds so much complexity and slickness to the sound of the record, whether it’s adding little synth sounds, or messing with the sound and tone of the snare drum, Walla helps to bring the songs to life and give them all commercial appeal, and a chance for any of the songs to be heard on any MTV or VH1 reality show. It may be the best produced record of the year, which makes me excited to see what he can on the next Death Cab record. Also the drumming from Jason McGerr is outstanding, he is so flawless and polished that the rhythms he is able to spew out sounds easy, but are actually ridiculously complex at times, it makes your ears perk up to try to pick up the beats with your limbs. The content of the lyrics has gotten a little flack for being a little feministic and overly sappy at spots. I agree that some songs have some mean spirited lyrics, such as “The Con” and the extremely dark, and possibly best song on the record ”Knife Going In,“ but I argue that underneath all of the pop hooks and sweet melodies is a record filled with dismantled relationships that the authors seems to be okay with. The thing I respect about the record, is that Tegan and Sara aren’t looking back and regretting or being overly sappy about it whatsoever. They seem to state the facts, claim their discomfort, and move on without really getting hurt too badly, even if they managed to hurt the other in the process. Tegan and Sara might just understand the whole break up process better then anyone I have ever met, including myself.
5. Of Montreal Hissing Fauna Are You the Destoryer? This is one of those records you really have to sit down and dissect. My first attempt at listening to this, I was both blown away and confused with the new wave almost borderline glam/dance rock approach and silly and extremely difficult to interpret lyrics from Kevin Barnes. The more I listened to it, the more I fell in love with it, and really realized the genius behind the songs. It’s a smart record that combines all of these happy melodies and rhythms with depressing and melancholy lyrics and themes. It’s a very theatrical record and the songs really come to life when you seem them performed, but it’s easy to visualize the lyrics while sitting on your couch and just focusing on the environments the songs create. It’s a great concept record with great imaginative songwriting that can truly be appreciated by anyone who likes a good story. It would be interesting to see this become some sort of a musical someday with an elaborate stage set and creatively cloaked characters, hell, maybe even Lance Bass could try out for the lead.
4. Athlete Beyond the Neighborhood- Athlete, I believe has been unfairly lumped in with the other boring brit rock bands of our time. After a stellar debut album, Vehicles and Animals critics praised them, and enjoyed their guitar driven pop rock sound. The second album Tourist was quite moody and somber and was met with modest reviews and started to gain Coldplay and Snow Patrol comparisons. If it is true that the sins of our past will never truly be forgiven, then Athlete is the poster child. Despite getting negative reviews, Beyond the Neighborhood is a fantastic record which sees the band experimenting with different sounds and exploring adult themes. The record revolves around aspects of life that effect us such as friendship, love, global warming, our fear of traveling, and the ability to see beyond one’s own self. While exploring more universal themes, Athlete picks it up a notch and abandons the slow melancholy feel of their previous record and favors driving guitar leads and the experimentation with electronic music and synths. The recipe is successful and leads to many tracks being danceable and catchy, even to the most jaded hipster and haters of Coldplay. The album opens with a soaring intro “In Between Two States” that is strictly instrumental and provides the listener with a clear and deliberate direction that Athlete plans to go with the record, a combination of catchy guitar riffs and wonderfully orchestrated synth work. “Hurricane” is one of the best singles of the year that exhibit’s the strengths of the bands new direction, and “Second Hand Stores” should be on a list for top non-single A side tracks of the year with it’s infectious chorus and brilliant instrumentation. Beyond the Neighborhood is a great record filled with great rocks songs, that deserves praise and not the 2 that Pitchfork decided to slap it with.
3. Arcade Fire Neon Bible- There’s not much that I can say that hasn’t been said already, by people on this list and every other major publication in the world. I think Neon Bible was a real bold step for the group. Instead of capitalizing and creating a record filled with indie pop gems that appealed to a mass audience, they instead released a real low key and hard to digest record that had all of us in their corner from the beginning scratching our heads, but at the same time tapping our feet and bobbing our heads. It may be low key and low on the production end, most of it was recorded in a church, but it feels as if they still carry the heavy Bowie influence in most of the songs and add a touch of Springsteen, while expanding on their creativity and instrumentation. Opting for more anthems and epics then three minute pop pleasures, Win Butler writes a very dark and dreary recorded that questions religion and the atrocities of war. It’s not an easy record to get through and at times you are kind of freaked out by the dismal vibe and no joy feeling that the Arcade Fire are able to produce. But if you think about Funeral, most of the record was based on death, it may have had some pop to it, but the lyrics were quite somber, not happy, so it almost makes sense that Butler and company would go in this direction. Even if the conception of the album is dark, there is a glimmer of hope that you get out of the record, that all is not bleak and decaying, but through the music there may be triumph and hope.
2. Stars In Our Bedroom After The War- I think it was the most overlooked record of the year. This is a really brilliant record that contains nothing but pure pop songs that contain nothing but simplicity. If Stars were in the early to mid 80’s they would be the most popular band in the world. They have a very strong British New Wave sound that is consistent and catchy from start to finish. It’s not over laden with and heavy on synthesizers like most New Wave bands, but there is a spacey and smooth feel to the compositions of the music. Whether you want to dance to it “Ghost of Genova Heights,“ jump around “Take Me To The Riot,“ or just kind chill out on the couch “My Favorite Book,” the instrumentation perfectly matches the lyrics and content of the songs and evokes a different kind of emotion from song to song. The trade off vocals of singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millian are an extremely strong appeal in the record. Both of their voices are magnetic and captivating in a romantic sensual way that is almost textbook on how you want the singer of a love song to sound. It’s almost like listening to Human League without all of the over production. Their harmonies are perfect and when they trade off like on “The Night Starts Here” you get the feeling that Stars have figured out a way to write the perfect pop song and really utilize their strengths as a band. The whole album is wonderfully done and contains some very sweet love songs, sad break ups such as the title track, and some very cool danceable numbers. It’s a record that everyone can enjoy and if you are a fan of pop music that can come easy to you then In Our Bedroom After The War is the record for you.
1. Band of Horses Cease to Begin- Their debut Everything All the Time was my number two last year, so it was safe to say they would have ended up on my top 10 somewhere this year, but I could not even imagine how good this record was going to be. In some ways Cease to Begin contains some of the same elements from it’s predecessor, it still has the same indie dream pop feel to it and Ben Bridewell’s vocals are still hauntingly catchy and drenched in reverb. But gone are the melodramatic pop ballads such as “Funeral” and “I Go To The Barn Because I Like…” which was something that probably half the first record contained. Replacing them are full on rockers and dream pop tunes that expose Bridwell’s vulnerability and possibly the bands sunnier side, which could have resulted from the relocation from Seattle to South Carolina, or the loss of Bridwell’s songwriting partner Mat Broke. Either way, the record elevates the band from being a sit around the campfire and gently play “Funeral” to here is a giant arena where they will rock out a version of “Ode to LRC.” From the moment that the first few notes of “Is There A Ghost” are played you can tell it’s going to be a different record. One that is filled with rock songs that all have anthem like quality, and not filled with playful pop songs. Even the slower tracks on the record “Detlef Schrempf” and “No One’s Gonna Love You” have sing along qualities that make you want to bust out the lighter, or in some cases the cell phone now a days (which is ridiculous). Every song on this record is fantastically put together. The lyrics are well crafted and musically it’s ridiculously simple. Just coming out and rocking and bearing the soul exemplifies so much that this band has to offer. Bridewell truly knows when to let it all out and he doesn’t have to get fancy to do it. Just a distorted guitar, a simple melody, and once again using his unmistakable voice to carry the weight of the songs that deal with heartbreak and friendship. The thing that is really impressive about this, is that it only took a year for the group to hash out a new record, Bridewell truly has a gift for writing hooky songs and choruses that make you sing along without even thinking about it. Even when he’s angry, like on “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands” the choruses are so airy and pleasant to sing along to you don’t even realize that Bridewll has just turned a terrible situation into a tremendous rock song. The only thing better would have been a collaboration with Jim James to see which one’s voice could be identified through all the reverb, but overall this was an outstanding record that I thought was head and shoulders the most addictive and best album of the year. It’s a record that is hard to put down, and with only 35 minutes worth of songs, it leaves you wanting more and not wishing the record would have ended earlier. The only thing we can do is hopefully look forward to next year if they release another spectacular record.