Wednesday, December 31, 2008
10. The Cool Kids “The Bake Sale”
It seems that for hip hop, change is a bad thing. With very few notable exceptions, as hip hop grows older, it gets exponentially worse. Enter the Cool Kids. They take things back to 1986 and the results are awesome. The clap and bass beat that makes up the opening track is one of the most creative beats you will hear all year. It sets the tone for a great disc that is fun to listen to and gives hope that hip hop has some future
9. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Dig! Lazarus, Dig!”
Nick Cave doesn’t really break any new ground here, but this CD is highly entertaining, with great songs. Cave’s lyrics and delivery are perfect for the loose chaos that backs him. As he rants about a new-age Lazarus lost in modern America, or demands someone to explain how we got to this point in humanity, Cave’s delivery perfectly accentuates the mood of these songs.
8. The Mars Volta “The Bedlam in Goliath”
One of the themes that a couple of bands on my list share this year is that they pared down the scope of what they put on record and really focus on song craft. The most frustrating thing about the Mars Volta is that they would be completely awesome if they just would play instead of giving you 3 amazing minutes of rock bookended by 10 minutes of babies screaming or something like that. Well, this is the disc where they find out how to remain arty and groundbreaking while keeping their songs lean and focused. This is the Mars Volta at their best, showing us the power they can produce when they really set their mind to the songs.
7. Sigur Ros “Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust”
This is another of the bands that refined and honed their formula for the most part this year. While I really had no complaints about the previous Sigur Ros albums, it is nice to hear what they would sound like if they attempted a more straight ahead song format. The results are mostly great. It is still nice to hear them do their old thing on the brooding to ecstatic “Festival”, but the more straightforward songs like “Gobbledigook” and “All Alright” are revelations. On a side note, one of the funniest things I read this year was in the Paste review of this album where the reviewer said he was glad that when Sigur Ros gives us and English language song, it doesn’t turn out that they’ve been singing about coke and strippers this whole time. Funny to think about.
6. Devotchka “A Mad and Faithful Telling”
There really is no one else like Devotchka out there. They were really thrust more into the limelight after “Little Miss Sunshine,” but they didn’t really let that success go to their heads, and instead turned in one of the best albums of their career. All the signature devices are there; the gypsy-esque arrangements and instrumentation, the yearning vocals, and the overall dramatic flair that doesn’t sound hokey at all.
5. Blitzen Trapper “Furr”
This is another band that took a step toward more focused songwriting than previous efforts, while maintaining some of their previous quirks. As much as I liked Wild Mountain Nation, none of these songs wouldn’t really fit on that album. There really is no Devil’s A Go Go, but that’s not really a bad thing the way these songs turned out. The highlights are actually the quieter, more intimate songs like Furr and Not Your Lover. A great disc from a band that has lots of promise to it.
4. Spiritualized “Songs in A & E”
More often than with other bands, when I get a Spiritualized CD, it is an event. I have to listen to it in it’s entirety uninterrupted to fully appreciate the scope of what Jason Pierce is trying to do. Their latest is no disappointment. This is a disc that brings all of the best things about Spiritualized together, the medicated full orchestration of Sweet Talk and Soul on Fire, the more straightforward rock of I Gotta Fire and You Lie, You Cheat, and the devastating sparseness of Death Take Your Fiddle. This album was worth the wait.
3. The Walkmen “You and Me”
My favorite moment on this CD comes in the third chorus of possible best song of the year “The New Year.” Hamilton Leithauser just decides he isn’t going to sing for most of the chorus. The band does it’s thing, but Hamilton just sits out. It’s a perfect example of the Walkmen at their drunk/too cool for school best. Sonically, this album doesn’t break much new ground for them, but it’s a nice return to form after the relative departure of their “Pussy Cats” cover. It’s always nice to have the Walkmen back doing what they do best.
2. Howlin’ Rain “Magnificient Fiend”
Howlin’ Rain is the side project of Comets on Fire’s Ethan Miller. I sometimes wish I was a teenager in the early seventies at a time when psychedelic rock was at it’s apex, and if there’s one thing Miller can do, it’s psychedelic blues rock. If an alien came down to earth and asked me what this whole rock and roll thing is, if I didn’t have any Stones Cd’s, there is a very good chance I would play Howlin’ Rain. From the frenetic amped up blues of “Dancers at the End of Time” to the Allman-esque twin guitar ecstacy of “Goodbye Ruby,” this album gives faith that there is bands out there keeping the old-school rock and roll flame alive without sounding like a rote thorwback.
1. Wolf Parade “At Mount Zoomer”
It was a very close call for me between #1 and #2 and if you ask me why I chose Wolf Parade over Howlin Rain, I don’t know if I can say why exactly. There is no doubt that this is a great album. I guess inside of me lives a prog rock fan, but not too big of one. I like the balance of straight up rock that Wolf Parade mixes with flair proggy keyboard flourishes, dramatic vocals and song arrangements that veer outside of the normal format just enough to add to the excitement. Highlight is the closer “Kissing the Beehive” which combines all of the elements that make Wolf Parade great. The song starts out inauspiciously enough before building to it’s climax that eventually ebbs into the devastating outro.
My Morning Jacket “Evil Urges”
Just when I thought I had heard the worst song of all time in “Highly Suspicious,” MMJ drops “Two Halves” on me. Ugh. Hopefully MMJ got all the stuff that made this album bad out of their system and can come back with a strong album next time out.
Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend”
Flight of the Conchords “Flight of the Conchords”
Flogging Molly “Float”
North Mississippi Allstars “Hernando”
Okkervil River “The Stand Ins”
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
9. The Cool Kids – The Bake Sale – Rap output in recent memory, with few exceptions, has just been a constant parade of the same old crap – apparently Rap is the new pop, with artists focusing more on their entrepreneurial ventures than their music. The Cool Kids take things in a different direction with 80’s nostalgia and songs glamorizing only having $5 to your name. They already jab those who are certain to copycat their style, almost challenging their peers to figure out their own style instead of following the crowd. The Rasheed Wallace shout out didn’t hurt my opinion of them either. Key tracks: What up Man, 88, Bassment Party, A Little Bit Cooler
8. Devotchka – A Mad and Faithful Telling – There really just isn’t a band around quite like Devotchka. This album is rich with beautiful, instantly classic songs that will make you want to dance like a whirling dervish while drinking red wine out of the bottle. Devotchka has been a favorite of mine for some time, but the album is their strongest output to date. Devotchka’s songs really span the spectrum of human emotion – anger, frustration, shame, regret, joy, futility, ecstasy – while transporting you to another place and time. Painfully beautiful, Devotchka’s music makes me feel as though my heart is about to swell and burst. It’s so easy to get lost in the highs and lows while listening to this album.
7. Coldplay – Viva la Vida or Death and All his Friends – I’m going to skip over the obligatory part where I’m supposed to apologize for liking Coldplay here – I have all of their albums and I’m an out-of-the closet Coldplay aficionado. In their previous releases they have established an easily predictable formula that works for them, but Viva la Vida steps outside of their comfort zone. The result is glorious. This is one of those albums you will want to listen to in its entirely – the flow between songs is flawless and as a whole it engulfs you in Chris Martin’s imaginary empire. Martin was quoted earlier this year saying “We owe our career to Radiohead”. Personally I think he underestimates himself, but it’s refreshing to hear a musician of his scale giving credits to those who have influenced his sound instead of acting like he developed his music in some kind of vacuum and invented rock music (I’m looking at you, Brandon Flowers!).
6. Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I-IV and The Slip – Both of this year’s NIN releases make my list based purely on innovation. First, NIN released Ghosts online only – but not only did we get all of the Ghosts tracks, we got a multimedia pack and custom artwork associated with each song. Ghosts itself is an interesting concept – each track is designed to evoke the feeling of being in a specific place. One of Trent Reznors’ collaborators on the album was Dresden Dolls’ Brian Viglione, and apparently Trent had him create a drum kit made of trash and random items from Home Depot – Trent preferred its sounds to the traditional kit so that’s what ended up on the album. The whole set of tracks sounds like the soundtrack for a yet unmade David Lynch film. THEN, Trent made Radiohead look like a bunch of cheap bastards by giving away The Slip online completely free (no donations accepted!!!) – AND with custom artwork for each track as well! The Slip was a major rebound for Trent after Year Zero’s chilly reception and its tracks sound simply fantastic live. Not to mention that their Lollapalooza live set was the best NIN show I have seen to date – and I have been to quite a few NIN shows, including dates on the club tour for With Teeth. In today’s world of corporate rock, it is so refreshing to see an established artist like Trent go to such great lengths to surprise and delight their fans. Key tracks: 1,000,000, Lights in the Sky
5. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend – How can you not like Vampire Weekend? It just makes you want to throw on a polo and boat shoes and go party on a yacht. Yet somehow it manages to portray the snooty New England vibe without seeming overly pretentious. This album just could not be more fun to listen to. Since this has been on practically every list in either 07 or 08 I will stop there.
3. The Raconteurs – Counselors of the Lonely – I don’t hold it as any secret that as a fellow Michigander, I worship all that is Jack White so keep in mind this review is entirely skewed. That said – I thought Broken Boy Soldiers was a solid album, but in Counselors of the Lonely the Raconteurs went completely off the reservation, exploring new sounds with exciting results. Yet while being completely different, the album still manages to keep the same gritty southern rock vibe I liked so much from their debut. The Raconteurs’ wear their country and blues influences on their sleeves, but they consistently churn out crisp new riffs and sounds that make the album as a whole one of the most innovative rock efforts in recent memory. Key tracks: The Switch and the Spur, Five on the Five, Rich Kid Blues, Many Shades of Black
2. Nick Cave & The Bas Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! – I fell hard for this album on the first listen. At points Cave’s wit makes me laugh, at other points his sensitive side makes me feel like weeping, at other times his libido makes me want to grab a glass of whiskey and dance on a table. You definitely can’t pin down this album as one note. To top it off, his live performance was simply stunning. Songs that kind of faded on the album came to life in a whole new way live, with a wall of sound from the Seeds and a voice that somehow growls and soothes simultaneously from Cave. Hard to believe that a band that has been around for nearly 2 ½ decades can put out something that sounds so new and fresh. Key tracks: Hold on to Yourself, We Call Upon the Author to Explain, Today’s Lesson, Midnight Man
1. Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer? – I love the Dresden Dolls, but was thrilled to see what Palmer would put together without any of the self-imposed restrictions of the Dolls’ punk cabaret duality. She did not disappoint. It’s no secret that Palmer is an excellent songwriter, and she certainly hadn’t used up all her creative juices when it came to putting out her solo disk (my personal favorite line from Ampersand: “The ghetto boys are cat-calling me as I pull my keys from my pocket. I wonder if this method of courtship has ever been effective? Has any girl in history said, ‘Sure, you seem so nice. Let’s get it on’? Still I always shock them when I answer, ‘Hi, my name’s Amanda’”). Ben Folds’ production guidance is evident on this album, in a good way – obviously he knows how to work her piano playing into larger bands with numerous instruments. I think this album will make everyone happy, with moments of big-scale bombast (Leeds United), sing-along rock (Guitar Hero), and the simplicity of beautiful pared-down songwriting she has become known for (Strength through Music). I saw her in London (highly recommend her live show) and she told an interesting story. When she brought in the video for Leeds United (which features her in basically a bra and suit jacket) her record execs told her they’d like to make a few tweaks – basically they though her exposed midriff was too pudgy and they wanted to airbrush her for the final cut. She questioned, had these people actually listened to her album and did they understand what she was all about? I mean, who do they think she is….Britney fucking Spears? She clearly is not, as all of these songs are instantly relatable, probably a result of Amanda keeping both feet on the ground by personally taking the time to meet with any fans who care to stay around after the show (I bought her a beer in London, and got an autograph and picture – highlight of the trip!).
Leeds United video - you decide if Amanda is "too fat":
Extremely close runner-ups…if only I had more spots to give!
Flogging Molly – Float – A kick ass Irish punk rock album with beautifully written songs. The only reason this didn’t make it on is that it’s just not a ton different than their previous releases. It’s certainly their best album since Drunken Lullabies, though. Key tracks: (No More) Paddy’s Lament. Float, Punch Drunk Grinning Soul, Man with No Country
The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing – Extremely fun dance album. Terrific effort from 2 newbies. Key Tracks: Great DJ, That’s Not My Name, Shut Up and Let me Go
Electric Six – Flashy – An awesome comeback after last year’s disappointment. Their schtick is fun and dancy once again. Definitely download “Flashy Man” and play it frequently at house parties.
Del the Funky Homo Sapien – Eleventh Hour – Classic Del. As always, innovative and fun with fresh beats. Del is definitely an industry exception of great rap that doesn’t fit into any stereotypes. Key tracks: Bubble Pop, Naked Fonk, Hold your Hand
The Streets – Everything is Borrowed – Mike Skinner gets environmental on your ass. Change your ways, lest ye go the way of the dodo! I love that he constantly evolves his subject matter. Key tracks: Heaven for the Weather, The Way of the Dodo, On the Edge of a Cliff, Never Give in, Alleged Legends, The Strongest Person I Know
Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy – As a hardcore GNR fan, I was pretty stunned with Axl finally stuck to a release date. Is it great enough to justify the amount of time he took to make this? Well, not quite…but he did put together a pretty great rock album, and it definitely lets everyone know that as crazy as Axl may be, he can also be genius sometimes. Hey, even Slash liked it:
Honorable Mentions: AC/DC – Black Ice, Beck – Modern Guilt, The Dresden Dolls – No, Virginia, The Ravonettes – Lust Lust Lust, Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum End, Pink – Funhouse (don’t judge me, she will save pop music!!)
Biggest 08 Disappointments:
Eagles of Death Metal – Heart On – EODM should stick to what they are great at, and that does NOT include sappy breakup songs. I hope to never hear the word “love” mentioned by Jesse Boots Electric again. This came off as a little over-produced – I like my EODM raw and loud. But I caught a drumstick at their concert, so I forgive them for this misstep. There are still good tracks, like Wannabe in LA and Secret Plans
Monkey – Journey to the West – Thus far I have been pretty trusting of Damon Albarn’s talent and taste. Monkey ended that lifetime streak. I really don’t know what to say about this. I don’t know if it even classifies as music so much as a collection of sounds. I gave up after 2 spins. It’s almost unlistenable.
Best Comedy Album:
Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords – Absolutely gut-bustingly hilarious, whether you are a fan of the show or not. Listening to this album will instantly improve your day. Plus dudes know enough about different genres to appropriately skewer each one of them, form reggae to electro to R&B to rap to pop. Key tracks: Foux du Fafa, Hiphopopoatmus, vs. Rhymenocerous, Robots, A Kiss is Not a Contract, The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room), Business Time, Bowie
“Business Time” Live:
Best Video: Amanda Palmer “Oasis” – Jesus Hates You!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I have read a lot of sub par reviews of this album but I think it almost as good as the first one and still a hell of a lot better than what most bands are putting out. Catchy tunes that are neither typical or boring.
9. of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
This is another album that I have heard a lot of bad things about and I went in to it expecting to hate it but there is a lot to like here. Definitely not as tight as Hissing Fauna but I like to see Kevin Barnes experimenting with different styles and I like how they all run together like the whole album is one long song. Soundtrack to an amazing live show.
8. The Dodos - Visiter
If you don't appreciate this album then go see them live and give it another listen. When you watch them you will appreciate the amazing things these guys do with their instruments. I don't know how they can make it through a set without their arms falling off. Nice mix of longer epic songs and short ones scattered between.
7. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Justin Vernon has such an amazing voice. Seeing him at Pitchfork was one of the few times I saw a band play outside and sound as good as most bands sound playing indoors. You know he must be something special when people spend as much as they do arguing how to say his moniker
6. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
Direct lyrics and a man not afraid to sound vulnerable make for a very interesting album that stands out. Modern Leper is definitely one of the best tracks of the year.
5. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
This album has the same effect as when I whip out some cheesy ska from my teenage skapunk days. It puts a smile on my face and always puts me in a good mood. How can it not with hilarious Lil Jon references!
4. Beck - Modern Guilt
I was never much of a Beck fan but this album pulled me in. Short and to the point this album is just straight up good.
3. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
This album should be on everyone's list. Every single song is good. A few of the songs and lyrics are cheesy but it had me dancing from day one. Just a good time over all.
2. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
At first I didn't think much of this album but it grew on me like crazy. In fact I think I might like it better than their first which is saying a lot because their first album is classic. Language City is the standout track for me but the epic closer is awesome as well due to the dual vocals.
1. Deerhunter - Microcastle
This album both calms and excites. It is so natural. It can be background music to reading a book or it can be rocked out to in the car. If you are not a believer check out Nothing Ever Happened right now!
Looking at this list I am happy to say I got to see 7 out of these 10 bands this year and I am already set to see 1 more of them in a few months.
10. Dr. Dog Fate- Oddly this record tended to get slammed by critics. Citing that it was pretty much directly coping from the Beatles and the songs tended to drag. This was one of my favorite and enjoyable summer time albums that I could throw on and sit on my deck and drink a beer. The concept of the album gets masked by the sing along choruses and happy 60’s pop sound. But the dark lyrical content is what makes the album interesting. As the songs progress you see how fate has a way of coming around, and in a sense get’s back at you in some way shape or form, and not always in a positive manner. “The Breeze” is a great opening track and really sets the tone but it’s “The Old Days” & “The Rabbit the Bat and the Reindeer” that are really the best and most intriguing songs on the record.
9. The Walkmen You & Me- Claustrophobic treble filled guitars, frantic and tight percussion, atmospheric organs, and Hamilton Lethheiser’s captivating vocals make this the best Walkman effort since their spectacular sophomore record Bows and Arrows. Sonically, it’s everything you would expect from a Walkmen record, but it’s the minor differences that makes this standout amongst their collection. Mainly, this is probably the most positive record that the Walkmen have made. In the past Walkmen records were kind of hazy, feel sorry for yourself songs about the pangs of getting older, or what I like to call, “post college life.” Instead of being worried about the future, Leitheiser and company seem to embrace it on this record and seem to have more of a positive outlook, and I dare to say, the feeling of being content. Beautiful record filled with classic Walkmen moments, and an explosive standout track “New Year”
8. Beach House Devotion- Patience is a virtue. That’ really the type of attitude when you listen to this record. The dreamy sounds of Beach House and especially the lo-fi recordings don’t really jump out at you and grab you necessarily. But really it’s how Devotion tends to play with and mix the beautiful melodies with Victoria Legrand droning vocals that almost tend to get lost in the background. The songs tend to slowly creep and crawl into your head, and if you able to comprehend what they are doing, you appreciate the sweet melancholy that is displayed in the songs that deal with commitment and love. “Astronaut,” “Wedding Bells,” “Gila” & “D.A.R.L.I.N.G” are great songs to get acquainted with if you are new to this Baltimore duo.
7. The Whispertown 2000 Swim- Every year I tend to develop a crush on some female indie artist that usually fronts a band. This year I have a huge crush on the sassy Morgan Nagler. This is a really interesting record that combines Americana, folk, blues, and a bit of alt-country to create songs that have some great narrative and tug at your heartstrings without getting overly sappy. Nagler’s vocals are very impressive as no matter what she is conveying sadness, aggressiveness, contemplation, there is a strong sense of confidence that just makes her voice sexy and attractive that she sounds like the girl you would love to not take home to your mother. I had a friend tell me that this is the record that Jenny Lewis should have made, and he may be right, but if you were bummed about Jenny’s record pick this one up.
6. The Bound Stems The Family Afloat- This was a record that really took me a long time get into. The Family Afloat is filled with odd and difficult to grasp arrangements and time changes that make your head spin at first listen. But you can see the maturity of this band the more and more you get into the record. Conceptually the record is about family dysfunctions and the trying task of keeping family and friends close. The record could be quite personal as this is still a very young band, that has moved from making eccentric pop tunes, to sophisticated and complicated songs that have weight. Driving guitars, bouncy keyboards, and irregular drum patterns really drive this record and they this Chicago outfit is definitely worth a couple of listens.
5. Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago- One of the most beautiful falsetto’s I have ever heard, and one of the most gut wrenching records that I have listened to in a long time. The songs lo-fi and minimal recoding really add weight to the heavy hearted songs that come gently pushed through the speakers. The album reads like a story or a series of letters of one or a series of failed relationships. The vocal work is really the center piece on Vernon’s album, but for me it’s the writing that really gravitates the listener. Theirs a lot of pain and lamentation in the voice that just grabs you by the throat and forces you to visualize the pain that Vernon displays. “Skinny Love” tends to be the song everyone seems to take hold of, but I think the best track on here is actually “Blindsided,” it’s just a beautifully arranged song about the trappings of rushing love.
4. The Hold Steady Stay Positive- East coast kids go to underground shows and drink coffee, west coast kids have beach parties and spend their parents in money in extravagant ways. Midwest kids get high, drink, and party with townies. America’s favorite bar band is back and depicts life fairly accurately to Midwest living as a teenager or young adult. This is a phenomenal follow up to Boys and Girls in America, were as Craig Finn has really developed as a singer and a songwriter. The narrative is fairly similar, as Fin displays characters that are on drugs, girls longing for attention, and people looking for redemption. But, it’s the set up of the characters that is impressive and intriguing, as well as the stories that surround them. “One for the Cutters” is a great example of a townie that goes missing and turns up murdered and no one really cares about the girl that knows the truth, who is just sick of the whole circus trial that is happening. As mentioned before, Finn has really developed into a better singer. His voice isn’t as sharp and discomforting to listen to as it was at times on the previous albums. “Lord I’m Discouraged” is a great example of how he has learned to let melody guide his voice and not fight and shout over the powerful guitar driven tracks. Great rock record in an era where straight up rock records seem to be hard to find these days.
3. Ra Ra Riot The Rhumb Line- One of my favorite records of the year that comes from a band that has had to endure a lot of adversity and tragedy…and it’s only their first album. Interestingly the group has a strong emphasis on the cello and violin to carry the melodies rather then accompany the guitar, which give the songs a very airy and whimsical feel. Although compared to Vampire Weekend, I think they share more tendencies with bands such as The Cure, with their very romantic and tender approach to songwriting. The songs, though have a rather depressing subject matter, are actually quite bouncy and fun to listen to. “Mouth Off” “Ghost Under Rock” &”Each Year” are great standout tracks.
2. Okkervil River The Stand Ins- This was a tough one for me, because I was almost going to make this my number one. I love records where there is story telling andbvg the Okkervil River do this in an amazing way. Characters are harsh and their tales are harsher. The story follows the follies and trappings of fame within the world of a rock band. Will Sheffs writing is dead on as no one seems to be spared in this harsh world that has been created. Everyone has a dark side and everyone is held accountable. Ex girlfriends, singer songwriters, close friends, maybe even Sheff himself experience, loneliness broken love, and the downfall of idol worship. These tales paint the picture of characters with sever flaws. It’s a great record and fun to listen to The stories are detailed and descriptive and one of the best records out of this bands catalogue.
1. Frightened Rabbit Midnight Organ Fight- Never has insecurities been sung more confidently then by lead singer Scott Hutchinson. The subject matters of death, suicide, and desperation make the record tough to swallow at first, however the intrigue is the build up of the songs. The songs tend to paint a very tortured picture which coincides with the raw and laboring pace of the music. But their always seems to be a sense of hope during the songs, a sense that everything is not lost, like on “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” or “Head Roll.” I really like the organic and raw approach to that the group displays. Nothing flashy and lack of effects on the instrumentation make this a really powerful record in that the natural ability of the musicianship can build the songs and draw the listener in. Hutchinson’s voice is so powerful and tortured that even on songs where he is portraying himself in not a favorable light, you can’t help but sort of root for him. This is an amazing and the most underrated record that came out this year.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Rich Mars Faves '08
In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite, best newly released CDs from 2008 --
1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- Dig, Lazarus Dig!
Actually, I called this the new release of the year right after I heard it the first time. Nick hits on all cylinders. Great material. Instant classics.
2. The Kills -- Midnight Boom.
Not as colossal of a fun trip as their previous release "No Wow," but I still love their spare guitar-drums-with-hipster-chick sound.
3. Dengue Fever -- Venus on Earth
Lao female vocals (and some lyrics in her native tongue) over 60's/ 70's/ 80's-influenced lounge-y band from L.A. My God, it was a mini-classic!
4. The Eagles of Death Metal -- Heart On
OK, so these guys are just this side of Spinal Tap. The good news is they rock as well as - or better than - the Stones at their best. Material doesn't flow quite as well as previous effort, "Death By Sexy," but keeps the ballsy rock rolling big time.
5. Sons & Daughters
Scottish band with male and female vocals that sounds like they just discovered late 70s/ early 80s rock and new wave. The thing is, the songs are strong and the delivery is fresh as can be.
6. Firewater -- The Golden Hour
Our man Tod A freshens up his sound by performing with backing bands from Israel, India, Pakistan and Turkey. This gives his sometimes too-cool vocals a more colorful, soulful setting for a really fine album.
7. Heloise & the Savoir Faire -- Trash, Rats and Microphones
I admit to trashing disco in its heyday (and occasionally dancing to it now at weddings) , but it wasn't this kind of disco. Heloise brings Debbie Harry's camp approach to soulful, fun dance music that, thank God, will never be played at mainstream weddings.
8. The Fleshtones -- Take A Good Look
The Fleshtones, like the Ramones did until their demise, keep doing essentially the same thing over and over. For the past 20 years, their party/ garage rock formula has produced only a couple-three strong tracks per release. On "Take A Good Look," the Fleshtones rock as well as ever with a solid set of songs.
9. High Places -- High Places
This Brooklyn girl-guy duo makes somewhat eery, somewhat etherial, somewhat techno sounds with somewhat-hushed female vocals. Fascinating stuff to play in the fog or a snowstorm.
10. Mugison -- Mugiboogie
From the hipster island nation Iceland a guy named Mugison produces music in a cultural and creative oasis allows an outrageous mix of over-the-top glam rock and sometimes silly and indulgent acoustic pieces. Mugison makes my list because a few of the tracks are outstanding and the whole thing is audacious.
Asterisk pick of 2008:
Matt B's list doesn't allow "Best Of" collections, but I have to say I truly enjoyed "The Supreme Genious of King Kahn and the Shrines" by King Kahn and the Shrines. It's heavy on the J.Geils Band-influenced '70s soul but rocks harder. King Kahn is, the best I can tell, of Indian descent and has lived in England but currently hangs out in Germany. Wild stuff.