Monthly Archives: December 2008

THE LAST WORD More Writers' 2008 Lists

We continue our backwards trawl through the year that’s
coming to a close. To view the first part, including BLURT’s Top 50 Albums and
additional writers’ picks, go HERE.

 

 

***

 

 

JUD COST

 

ALBUMS:

Beck, Modern Guilt (dgc)
Duffy, Rockferry (mercury)
Baseball Project, Frozen Ropes & Dying Quails (yep roc)
Eilen Jewell, Letters from Sinners & Strangers (signaturesounds)
Inara George with Van Dyke Parks, An Invitation (ever loving)
The Duke Spirit, Neptune (shangri-la)
Black Angels, Directions To See A Ghost (light in the attic)
Octopus Project, Hello Avalanche (peek-a-boo)
Radiohead, In Rainbows (tbd)
Brian Wilson, That Lucky Old Sun (capitol/emi)
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (sub pop)  
Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue (warner bros)
She & Him, Volume One (merge)
Steve Wynn, Crossing Dragon Bridge (rock ridge)
Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (xl)
Randy Newman, Harps And Angels (nonesuch)
Dengue Fever, Venus On Earth (M80
Magnetic Fields, Distortion (nonesuch)
R.E.M., Accelerate (warners)
Conor Oberst, Conor Oberst (merge)

 

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR:

If there was a highlight of the
year category, mine would be the Treasure Island Festival, held in the middle
of San Francisco Bay under stiff August winds. Alternate
stages with great sight-lines let all ten thousand attendees get up close with
the Raconteurs, Fleet Foxes, Spiritualized, Okkervil River,
Vampire Weekend, Dr.Dog, The Dodos and Tegan & Sara. Perfect bus service to
the island got you there in ten minutes.

 

 

—————————————————

 

 

LAVINIA JONES WRIGHT

 

ALBUMS:

1. Dr. Dog “Fate” (Park the Van)

2. Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes” (Sub Pop)

3. Brian Eno and David Byrne “Everything That Happens Will
Happen Today”

4. Nada Surf “Lucky” (Barsuk)

5. The Kills “Midnight Boom” (Domino)

6. The Moutain Goats “Heretic Pride” (4AD)

7. The War on Drugs “Wagonwheel Blues” (Secretly Canadian)

8. Nick
Cave and the Bad Seeds
“Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”

9. The Black Keys “Attack & Release” (Nonesuch)

10. The Whigs “Mission Control” (ATO)

11. Santogold “Santogold” (Downtown)

12.  Deerhunter “Microcastle”
(Kranky)

13.  Flight of the
Conchords “Flight of the Conchords” (Sub Pop)

14.  She & Him
“Volume One” (Merge)

15.  Apollo Sunshine
“Shall Noise Upon” (Headless Heroes)

16.  Delta Spirit “Ode
to the Sunshine” (Rounder)

17.  Beck “Modern
Guilt” (XL)

18.  Ryan Adams
“Cardinology” (Lost Highway)

19.  Takka Takka
“Migration” (Ernest Jennings)

20. Girl Talk “Feed the Animals” (Illegal Art)

 

REISSUES:

 1. Portastatic “Some Small History” (Merge)

2. Bob Dylan “The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 – Tell Tale Signs” (Columbia)

3. Belle and Sebastian “BBC Sessions” (Matador)

4.  Liz Phair “Exile
in Guyville” (ATO)

5.  Loudon Wainwright
“Recovery” (Yep Rock)

 

NEW ARTISTS: 

1.  Dr. Dog

2. Fleet Foxes

3. Bon Iver

4. Santogold

5. War on Drugs

 

TOURS: 

1.  My Bloody
Valentine

2.  Dr. Dog

3.  The Black Keys

4.  Neil Young/Wilco
(Speculation) or Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings if you don’t like speculation

5.  Fleet Foxes

 

ANNOYING: 

1.  Republicans using
music without artists’ permission for rallies

2.  Katy Perry

3.  Kid Rock vs. Those
iTunes Imposters

4.  Sarah Palin’s
“Real Americans” comment

5.  Naked/Risque
Internet Photos of Young Female Celebrities. 
C’mon.  Does this still surprise
us?  Do male celebrities EVER have their
reputations ruined for bullshit like this?

 

BOOKS: 

1. “Like A Rolling Stone: The Strange Life of a Tribute
Band” by Steven Kurutz

2. “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon
and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller

 

COOLEST: 

Democracy.  FINALLY! 

 

 

—————————————————

 

 

ZACH BLOOM:

 

ALBUMS:

1. Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours (Modular/Interscope)
2. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (XL Recordings)
3. TV On The Radio, Dear Science (DGC/Interscope)
4. Beach House, Devotion (Carpark Records)
5. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
6. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (Last Gang Records)
7. Okkervil River, The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)
8. Deerhoof, Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars)
9. Earlimart, Hymn and Her (Shout Factory)
10. Mates Of State, Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk)
11. Hot Chip, Made In The Dark (Astralwerks)
12. Portishead, Third (Mercury)
13. M83, Saturdays=Youth (Mute U.S.)
14. The Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust (Vice Records)
15. Hercules And Love Affair, Hercules And Love Affair (Mute U.S.)
16. Throw Me The Statue, Moonbeams (Secretly Canadian)
17. Bloc Party, Intimacy (Atlantic Records)
18. The Heavenly States, Delayer (The Rebel Group)
19. The Presets, Apocalypso (Modular/Interscope)
20. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive (Vagrant Records)

 

NEW ARTISTS:
1. Vampire Weekend
2. Bon Iver
3. Hercules And Love Affair
4. Crystal Castles
5. Chairlift

ANNOYING:
1. The Raconteurs
2. The Ting Tings
3. CSS
4. Devendra Banhart
5. white guilt

COOLEST OVERDUE RELEASE SINCE I LOST MY VIRGINITY:

Chinese Democracy. It’s good that it’s finally out, but in
both situations, it’s better we all/both forget it happened, move on, and never
ever match cornrows with an Atlanta Falcons jersey again. In the immediate
aftermath there’s a sinking feeling that it will always be this bad. 

 

————————————————-

 

 

BRYAN REED

 

ALBUMS:

1.      Mount Eerie with Julie
Doiron and Fed Squire – Lost Wisdom (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

2.      WHY? – Alopecia (Anticon)

3.      Earth – The Bees Made Honey
In The Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord)

4.      Nomo – Ghost Rock
(Ubiquity)

5.      Mamiffer – Hirror Enniffer
(Hydra Head)

6.      Fuck Buttons – Street
Horrrsing (ATP)

7.      Harvey Milk – Life…The Best
Game In Town (Hydra Head)

8.      Fucked Up – The Chemistry
of Common Life (Matador)

9.      Grampall Jookabox –
Ropechain (Asthmatic Kitty)

10.  The Dodos – Visiter (Frenchkiss)

11.  Bellafea – Cavalcade (Southern)

12.  Wale – The Mixtape About Nothing (self-released)

13.  Double Negative – Raw Energy EP (Sorry State)

14.  The Foreign Exchange – Leave It All Behind (Hall
of Justus/Nicolay Music)

15.  Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

16.  Jenks Miller – Approaching The Invisible Mountain
(Holidays For Quince/New American Folk Hero)

17.  Giant Sand – proVISIONS (Yep Roc)

18.  Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III (Universal Motown/Cash
Money)

19.  Johann Johannson – Fordlandia (4AD)

20.  Nachtmystium – Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. I
(Century Media)

 

 

REISSUES:

1.      Johnny Cash, At Folsom
Prison
Legacy Edition (Legacy)

2.      Bon Iver, For Emma,
Forever Ago
(Jagjaguwar)

3.      Megafaun, Bury The
Square
(Table of the Elements)

4.      Ahleuchatistas, The Same
And The Other
(Tzadik)

5.      Pavement, Brighten The
Corners Nicene Credence Ed.
(Matador)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

1.      Mamiffer

2.      Women

3.      Bellafea

4.      Fuck Buttons

5.      The Dodos

 

TOURS:

1.      Billy Bragg

2.      Superchunk/Arcade Fire

3.      Polvo

4.      Little Brother

5.      The Rosebuds/Megafaun

 

ANNOYING:

1.      Kevin Barnes

2.      Sarah Palin entering the
public consciousness

3.      Camel and Rolling Stone’s
“Indie Rock Universe”

4.      Kanye West vs. anyone with
a camera

5.      The overuse of Auto-Tune

 

DVDS:

1.      Kurt Cobain: About A Son

2.      Joe Strummer: The Future Is
Unwritten

 

BOOKS:

1.      Radio Silence: A Selected
Visual History of American Hardcore Music

2.      The Pitchfork 500

 

COOLEST:

Aside from the video of the dude in the gorilla drumming to
“In The Air Tonight” as though he were Phil Collins (www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbLr2NEV_7o),
it’d be finally finding a copy of Double Negative’s 2007 LP, The Wonderful
And Frightening World of Double Negative
, at Lunchbox Records in Charlotte,
after looking for it for more than a year.

 

 

———————————————–

 

AARON KAYCE

 

ALBUMS:

1. Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago” – Jagjaguwar

2. My Morning Jacket – “Evil Urges” – ATO

3. TV on the Radio – “Dear Science” – DGC/Interscope

4. The Mars Volta – “The
Bedlam In Goliath” – Universal

5. TK Webb & The Visions – “Ancestor” – Kemado

6. The Hold Steady – “Stay Positive” – Vagrant

7. Blitzen Trapper – “Furr” – Sub Pop

8. MGMT – “Oracular Spectacular” – Sony

9. Jessica Lea Mayfield – “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt” –
Thirsty Tiger

10. The Raconteurs – “Consolers of the Lonely” – Warner
Bros.

11. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – “Miles Benjamin
Anthony Robinson” – Say Hey

12. Cold War Kids – “Loyalty To Loyalty” – Downtown

13. Drive-By Truckers – “Brighter Than Creations Dark” – New
West

14. Brendan Canning – “Something For All of Us” – Arts &
Crafts

15. Dead Confederate – “Wrecking Ball” – Razor & Tie

16. Islands – “Arm’s Way” –
Anti-

17. Dr. Dog – “Fate” – Park The Van Records

18. AA Bondy – “American Hearts” – Fat Possum

19. Fleet Foxes – “Fleet Foxes” – Sub Pop

20. Ben Sollee – “Learning To Bend” – R.E.D.

 

 

NEW ARTISTS:

1. Bon Iver

2. TK Webb

3. Dead Confederate

4. Jessica Lea Mayfield

5. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

 

TOURS:

1. Radiohead

2. My Morning Jacket

3. The Mars Volta

4. The Hold Steady/Drive-By Truckers Tour

5. Orchestra Baobab

 

BOOKS:

“Northline” by Willy Vlautin

 

COOLEST:

The election of Barack Obama.  After eight years of
shame we can finally hold our heads high and dream of the future.  Because
of Obama we can once again say we are proud to be American.

 

 

—————————————————-

 

 

JAKE CLINE

 

ALBUMS:

1. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive (Vagrant)

2. My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (ATO)

3. R.E.M., Accelerate (Warner Bros.)

4. Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creationʼs Dark (New
West)

5. David Byrne and Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will
Happen Today (Todo Mundo)

6. Randy Newman, Harps and Angels (Nonesuch)

7. American Music Club, The Golden Age (Merge)

8. The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia (Sub Pop)

9. Cephas and Wiggins, Richmond
Blues (Smithsonian Folkways)

10. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Real Emotional Trash
(Matador)

 

MOST SOPHOMORIC SOPHOMORE ALBUM:

Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)

 

REISSUES:

1. Bob Dylan, Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8 (Columbia)

2. The Replacementsʼ catalog (Rhino/Rykodisc)

3. Various artists, New
Orleans: The Original Sound of Funk, Volume 2 (Soul
Jazz)

4. Otis Redding, Live in London and Paris (Stax)

5. Charlie Pickett, Bar Band Americanus (Bloodshot) 

 

BEST COLLABORATION BETWEEN A NOVELIST AND A SONGWRITER: I’m
Not Jim (Jonathan Lethem + Walter Salas-Humara) – You Are All My People
(Bloodshot)

 

BOOK:

The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing, edited by
Marc Smirnoff (The University of Arkansas Press)

 

DVD:

I’m Not There, dir. by Todd Haynes (Weinstein Company)

 

TOUR:

Drive-By Truckers 

 

ANNOYING:

Kanye West

 

————————————————–

 

 

JOHN SCHACHT

 

ALBUMS:

Centro-matic/South San
Gabriel – Dual Hawks (Misra)

Micah P. Hinson — Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire (Full
Time Hobby)

Sera Cahoone – Only As the Day Is Long (Sub Pop)

Shearwater – Rook (Matador)

Calexico – Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)

National Eye — The Farthest Shore (Park the Van)

Pontiak — Sun on Sun (Thrill Jockey)

Tindersticks – The Hungry Saw (Beggars Banquet)

Plants & Animals – Parc Avenue (Secret City)

Okkervil
River — The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

Liz Durrett – Outside Our Gates (Warm)

Of Great & Mortal Men – J. Matthew Gerken,
Christian Kiefer, Jefferson Pitcher (Standard)

Ala
Muerte — Santa Elena (Public Guilt)

Damien Jurado — Caught in the Trees (Secretly Canadian)

Thalia Zedek — Liars & Prayers (Thrill Jockey)

Grails — Doomsdayer’s Holiday
(Temporary Residence)

Talkdemonic – Eyes at Half Mast (Arena Rock)

Benji Hughes — A Love Extreme (New West)

Giant Sand — proVISIONS (Yep Roc)

Ry Cooder — I, Flathead (Nonesuch)

 

REISSUES:

Pavement — Brighten the Corners (Matador)

Replacements — Let It Be (Twin-Tone)

Miles Davis — Kind of Blue (Columbia)

Mogwai — Young Team (Chemikal Underground)

CCR – Reissues (Concord/Fantasy)

Nick Lowe — Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc)

Mission of Burma — VS. (Matador)

Dennis Wilson — Pacific Ocean
Blue (Legacy/Caribou)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Benji Hughes (NC)

Yardwork (NC)

Ala Muerte (Queens)

Sholi (SF)

The Uglysuit (OK City)

 

ANNOYING:

The dreaded return of fucking synth pop

Kevin Costner’s band getting signed

The demise of print

10 Year Anniversary Reissues (what’s next, 5? 3?)

 

COOLEST:

The Take-Away Shows at Crackle.com

NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

 

DVDS:

Joe Strummer — The Future Is Unwritten

Silver Jew — Silver Jews

 

BOOKS:

Amanda Petrusich — It Still Moves

John Darnielle — Black Sabbath/Master of Reality

 

—————————————————

 

 

APRIL S. ENGRAM

 

ALBUMS:

Elbow, The Seldom Seen Kid, Geffen Records

The Helio Sequence, Keep Your Eyes Ahead, Sub Pop

TV on the Radio, Dear Science, Interscope

Wolf Parade, At Mount
Zoomer, Sub Pop

Friendly Fires, Self Titled, XL Recordings

Blitzen Trapper, Furr, Sub Pop

The Duke Spirit, Neptune, You Are Here

The Dears, Missles, Dangerbird Records

Fujiya & Miyagi, Lightbulbs, Full Time Hobby Records

The Rosebuds, Life Like, Merge Records

Fleet Foxes, Self Titled, Sub Pop

Okkervil
River, The Stand Ins, Jagjaguwar

Ra Ra Riot, The Rhumb Line, Barsuk

Cold War Kids, Loyalty to Loyalty, Downtown

Santogold, Self Titled, Downtown

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Duchess Says

Hercules & The Love Affair

Friendly Fires

Lykke Li

Starf*cker

 

CONCERTS:

Radiohead/Grizzly Bear

Iron & Wine/Blitzen Trapper

The Walkmen/The Decemberists

Eagles of Death Metal/The Duke Spirit

Lykke Li/Friendly Fires

 

ANNOYING:

-The Palin Effect. Does anyone recall what Joe Biden looks
like? (Exaggeration intended there.)  Yet
the media was so focused on this VP candidate that Biden fell through their
cracks. Though I must admit, Palin was an excellent candidate for camera
fodder.

-Politics once again: “Joe The Plumber.”  He now has a book deal…WHAAT?!!

-Rolled over from 2007, High School Musical craze.

-The teenster obsession with the film Twilight.

-(Not sure if this is strictly a 2008 trend). Resurgence of ‘80s
Fashion.  Styles die out for a reason…

 

——————————————–

 

 

JONAH FLICKER

 

ALBUMS:

1) The War on Drugs – Wagonwheel Blues – Jagjaguwar

2) Deerhunter – Microcastle – Kranky

3) Cut Copy – In Ghost Colors

4) She & Him – Volume One – Merge

5) of Montreal
– Skeletal Lamping – Polyvinyl

6) The Lord Dog Bird  – S/T – Jagjaguwar

7) Wilderness – (k)no(w)here – Jagjaguwar

8) Grampall Jookabox – Ropechain – Asthmatic Kitty

9) Mighty Joseph – Empire State
– Phantom Sound & Vision

10) Prodigy – HNIC Pt. 2 – AAO Music

11) MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)

12) M83 – Saturdays = Youth – Mute

13) Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
– Sub Pop

14) Scarlett Johannson – Anywhere I Lay My Head – Ryko

15) Karl Blau – Nature’s Got Away – K

 

REISSUES:

New Order – Movement, Low-life, Power, Corrupion & Lies,
Brotherhood, Technique

 

DVDs:

The Story of the Wu

Hip-Hop Time Capsule – 1994

 

 

——————————————————

 

 

STEVEN ROSEN

 

ALBUMS:

Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds,
“Dig Lazarus Dig!!!”  (Anti-)

TV On the Radio, “Dear Science”  (DGC/Interscope)

Robert Forster, “The Evangelist” (Yep Rock)

Psychic TV/PTV3, “Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers”
(Cargo/Sweet Nothing)

Andre Williams & the New Orleans Hellhounds, “Can You Deal With
It?” (Bloodshot)

Frida Hyvonen, “Silence Is Wild” (Secretly Canadian)

Drive-By Truckers, “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” (New
West)

Neil Diamond, “Home BBefore Dark” (Columbia)

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby (Stiff)

Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago” (Jagjaguwar)

Kevin Ayers, “The Unfairground” (Gigantic/Lo-Max)

Kath Bloom, “Terror” (Chapter Music)

Bill Frisell, “History, Mystery” (Nonesuch)

Mavis Staples, “Live: Hope at the Hideout” (Anti-)

Barton Carroll, “The Lost One” (Skybucket)

Fredrik, “Na Na Ni” (Kora)

The Hold Steady, “Stay Positive” (Vagrant)

Lambchop, “OH (ohio)”
Merge

Randy Newman, “Harps and Angels” (Nonesuch)

Anathallo, “Canopy Glow” (Anticon.)

 

REISSUES:

Bob Dylan, “Tell Tale Signs” (Columbia)

Hoyt Axton, “My Griffin Is Gone” (Omni)

“The Jerry Ragovoy Story” (Ace UK)

“The Bert Berns Story” (Ace UK)

Dennis Wilson, “Pacific Ocean
Blue” (Legacy)

Blue Ash, “No More, No Less”
(Collectors’ Choice Music)

Kath Bloom & Loren Connors,
“Sing the Children Over” and “Sand In My Shoe” (Chapter Music)

Rodriguez, “Cold Fact” (Light in
the Attic)

Eccentric Soul releases (The Numero Group)

Creedence Clearwater reissues
(Fantasy)

 

TOURS:

Van Morrison doing “Astral Weeks”
at Hollywood Bowl

Nick Cave &
the Bad Seeds, “Dig Lazarus Dig!!!” tour

Shelby Lynne supporting “Just a
Little Lovin’

Jens Lekman

Glen Campbell supporting “Meet
Glen Campbell”

 

ANNOYING:

Return of AC/DC

Return of Guns ‘N Roses

Continued success of “American
Idol”

Endless speculation on Amy
Winehouse’s health

Emphasis on ‘70s hard rock on
classic-rock stations

 

 DVDS:

“The Smothers Brothers Comedy
Hour: The Best of Season 3” (Time Life)

“You Think You Really Know Me: The
Gary Wilson Story” (Plexifilm)

 

BOOKS:

Tom Moon – 1,000 Recordings To
Hear Before You Die (Workman Publishing)

Zachary Lazar – Sway (Little
Brown) 

 

COOL BAND NAMES:

Continued Growth of Bands That
“Make a Statement” by Putting Verbs in Their Names, like The Academy Is…, Sky
Eats Airplane, These Arms Are Snakes, I Set My Friends on Fire, Does It Offend
You, Yeah?, I See Hawks in L.A, I’m From Barcelona, We Are Scientists, and the
veteran Dead Can Dance and …and you will know us by the trail of dead. (Does
The Hold Steady count?)

 

 

———————————————-

 

 

 

ED MASLEY

 

ALBUMS:

1.         Nick Cave
and the Bad Seeds, “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!” (Mute)

2.         Elvis
Costello and the Imposters, “Momofuku” (Lost Highway)

3.         Beck,
“Modern Guilt” (Interscope)

4.         Man Man,
“Rabbit Hands” (Anti-)

5.         Nas,
untitled (Def Jam)

6.         Randy
Newman, “Harps and Angels” (Nonesuch)

7.         The Walkmen,
“You and Me” (Gigantic)

8.         Vampire
Weekend, “Vampire Weekend” (XL)

9.         Plastilina
Mosh, “All U Need Is Mosh” (Nacional)

10.       Portugal.
The Man, “Censored Colors” (Equal Visi

 

REISSUES:

1. The Clash, “The Clash: Live at Shea Stadium” (Sony
International)

2. Cheap Trick “Budokan!” (Sony Legacy)

3. Doors, “Live at the Matrix 1967” (Rhino)

4. Various, “Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia” (Sony
Legacy)

5. Jesus and Mary Chain, “The Power of Negative Thinking:
B-Sides & Rarities” (Rhino)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

1.         Vampire
Weekend

2.         The Urges

3.         Heavy Hands

4.         Wallpapers

5.         So So Glos

 

TOURS:

1.         Elvis
Costello

2.         Beck

3.         Vampire
Weekend

4.         Portugal.
The Man

5.         Nick Lowe

 

DVDS:

1.         The Who “At
Kilburn: 1977”

2.         Cheap Trick,
“Budokan”

 

 

—————————————————-

 

 

JASON MIDDLEKAUFF

 

ALBUMS:

1) Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal – Back Porch

2) Murry Hammond – I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m on
My Way – DIY

3) Elvis Costello – Momofuku – Lost Highway

4) Horse Feathers – House With No Name – Kill Rock Stars

5) The Hold Steady – Stay Positive – Vagrant

6) Jesse Malin – On Your Sleeve – Adeline Records

7) Kathleen Edwards – Asking for Flowers – Zoe Records

8) Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty – Downtown

9) Jackson Browne – Time the Conqueor – Insiderecords

10) She and Him – Volume One – Merge Records

 

REISSUES: 

1) Creedence Clearwater Revival – Catalog – Fantasy

2) The Replacements – Catalog – Fantasy

3) Steve Earle – Copperhead
Road (Deluxe Edition) – Geffen

4) Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon – Rhino

5) Josh Rouse – Best of the Ryko Years – Ryko

 

 

—————————————————

 

 

STEVE KLINGE

 

ALBUMS:

TV On The Radio, Dear Science (Interscope)

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (ATO)

Okkervil
River, The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

The Hold Steady, Stay Positive (Vagrant)

Randy Newman, Harps and Angels (Nonesuch)

Los Campesinos!, Hold On Now, Youngster… (Arts & Crafts)

Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight (Fat Cat)

The Mountain Goats, Heretic Pride (4AD)

Santogold, Santogold (Downtown)

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Matador)

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (XL)

Shelby Lynne, Just A Little Lovin’ (Lost Highway)

Portishead, Third (Mercury)

Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy)

The War on Drugs, Wagonwheel Blues (Secretly Canadian)

Nick
Cave and the Bad Seeds,
Dig Lazaurs Dig!!! (ANTI)

Man Man, Rabbit Habits (ANTI)

Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It (Columbia)

Girl Talk, Feed The Animals (Illegal)

Sigur Ros, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (XL)

 

REISSUES:

Bob Dylan, Tell Tale Signs (Columbia)

Steinski, What Does It All Mean? (Illegal)

Quarteto Em Cy, Alleluia (El / Cherry Red)

Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story (Big Beat)

The Impressions, This Is My Country / The Young Mods’
Forgotten Story (American Beat / Rhino)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Frightened Rabbit

Vampire Weekend

Los Campesinos!

Fleet Foxes

The War on Drugs

 

TOURS:

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Radiohead

My Morning Jacket

Wilco

Nick
Cave and the Bad Seeds

 

ANNOYING:

The demise of print music publications

 

DVDS:

Arthur Russell, Wild Combination

Awake My Soul

 

BOOKS:

Sway, Zachary Lazar

1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, Tom Moon

 

COOLEST:

Obama’s election

 

 

———————————————

 

 

JAMIE GADETTE

 

ALBUMS:

The Black Angels, Directions to See a Ghost (Light In The
Attic)

The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia (Sub Pop)

Silver Jews, Lookout
Mountain, Lookout
Sea (Drag City)

Imaad Wasif with Two-Part Beast, Strange Hexes
(self-released)

Bonnie Prince Billy, Lie Down in the Light (Drag City)

CarCrashLander, Mountains On Our Backs (Jealous Butcher)

Wolf Parade, At Mount
Zoomer (Sub Pop)

Doomtree, Doomtree (self-released)

Okkervil
River, The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

Crystal Antlers, Crystal Antlers EP (Touch
& Go)

Devotchka, A Mad and Faithful Telling (Anti)

Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers, The Confiscation
EP (Ramseur)

Land of Talk, Some Are
Lakes (Saddle Creek)

Blitzen Trapper, Furr (Sub Pop)

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Horse Feathers, House With No Home (Kill Rock Stars)

Santogold, Santogold

 

ALBUMS I DESPERATELY WANTED TO BE GOOD, BUT THAT ULTIMATELY
FELL SHORT: Constantines, Kensington Heights;
The Breeders, Mountain Battles-though
“We’re Gonna Rise” is one of the best songs of 2008

 

REISSUE:

Pavement, Brighten the
Corners

Whiskeytown, Strangers
Almanac

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Samantha Crain

CarCrashLander

Fleet Foxes

Santogold

 

TOURS:

The Black Angels, Warlocks

Liars, No Age

Silver Jews, Monotonix

Constantines, Ladyhawk

Dead Meadow

 

ANNOYING:

Vampire Weekend

MTV Video Music Awards, particularly Katy Perry

2 favorite music-themed DVDs

Silver Jews, Silver
Jew

Joy Division, Joy
Division

 

BOOKS:

True Norwegian Black
Metal
, Peter Beste

You Don’t Love Me Yet,
Jonathan Lethem

 

 

 

———————————————-

 

 

ERIC
SCHUMACHER-RASMUSSEN

 

ALBUMS:

1.     The Hold Steady, Stay Positive
(Vagrant)

2.     Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal
(Back Porch)

3.     Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound
(Side One Dummy)

4.     Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple
(Downtown)

5.     James McMurtry, Just Us Kids
(Lightning Rod)

6.     Calexico, Carried to Dust
(Quarterstick)

7.     Cold War Kids, Loyalty to Loyalty
(Downtown)

8.     Paul Weller, 22 Dreams (Island)

9.     Ra Ra Riot, The Rhumb Line
(Barsuk)

10. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)
(Universal Motown)

11. Rafael Saadiq, The Way I See It (Columbia)

12. Tom Gabel, Heart Burns (Sire)

13. Everlast, Love War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford (Hickory)

14. Lindsey Buckingham, Gift of Screws (Reprise)

15. The Loved Ones, Build and Burn (Fat Wreck Chords)

16. Duffy, Rockferry (Polydor)

17. Lyfe Jennings, Lyfe Change (Columbia)

18. Glasvegas, Glasvegas (Sony)

19. Jackson Browne, Time the Conqueror (Inside)

20. Street Dogs, State of Grace (Hellcat)

 

REISSUES:

1.     Bob Dylan, Tell-Tale Signs (Columbia)

2.     Steinski, What Does It All Mean?
1983-2006 Retrospective (Illegal Art)

3.     Love Train: The Sound of
Philadelphia (Legacy)

4.     Otis Redding, Otis Blue: Otis
Redding Sings Soul (Rhino)

5.     The Clash, Live at Shea Stadium
(Epic/Legacy)

6.     Warren Zevon, Warren Zevon
(Rhino)

7.     Ry Cooder, The UFO Has Landed
(Rhino)

8.     The Smiths ,The Sound of the
Smiths (Rhino)

9.     Tony Joe White, Deep Cuts (Swamp)

 

TOURS:

1.     Hold Steady/Drive-by Truckers

2.     Bruce Springsteen & the E
Street Band

3.     Alejandro Escovedo

4.     James McMurtry

5.     Madonna

 

BOOKS:

1.     Sing Me Back Home, Dana Jennings
(Faber and Faber)

2.     The World in Six Songs, Daniel
Levitan (Dutton)

 

DVDS:

1.     I Got the Feelin’: James Brown in
the 60s (Shout Factory)

2.     Lou Reed’s Berlin (Genius)

 

 

———————————————-

 

 

TIM HINELY

 

ALBUMS:

1.      Robert Forster- The
Evangelist (Yep Roc)

2.      British Sea
Power- D O You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade)

3.      Murry Hammond- I Don’t Know
Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way (Hummingbird)

4.      The Last Shadow Puppets-
The Age Of Understatement (Domino)

5.      The Incredible Vickers
Brothers- Gallimaufry (Bus Stop)

6.      Eddy Current Suppression
Ring- Primary Colours (Goner)

7.      Silver
Jews- Lookout
Mountain, Lookout
Sea (Drag City)

8.      Okkervil River- The Stand
Ins (Jagjaguwar)

9.      The Ruby Suns- Sea Lion (Sub Pop)

10.  The Asteroid No. 4- These Flowers Of Ours: A
Treasury Of Witchcraft And Devilry- (The Committee To Keep Music Evil

 

 

————————————————-

 

 

STUART MUNRO

 

ALBUMS:

Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Sound, Mercury Nashville
Glen Campbell, Meet Glen Campbell, Capitol
Kylie Auldist with the Bamboos, Just Say, Tru Thoughts
The Dixons, Still Your Fool, Cow Island
Bahama Soul Club, Rhythm Is What Makes Jazz Jazz, Soulfood
Hacienda Brothers, Arizona Motel, Proper American
The Iguanas, If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times, Yep Roc
Hayes Carll, Trouble In Mind, Lost Highway
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazurus, Dig!!!, Anti-
The Hold Steady, Stay Positive, Vagrant
Martha Wainwright, I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too, Zoe/Rounder
Bronx River Parkway & Candela All Stars, San Sebastian 152, Truth &
Soul
Crowe Brothers, Brothers-N-Harmony, Rural Rhythm
Belleville Outfit, Wanderin’, Self-released
SteelDrivers, SteelDrivers, Rounder
Ashton Shepard, Sounds So Good, MCA Nashville
Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It, Columbia
Sloan, Parallel Play, Yep Roc
Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal, Back Porch
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, Rattlin’ Bones, Sugar Hill

 

REISSUES:

Hank Williams, The Unreleased Recordings, Time-Life
Porter Wagoner, The Cold Hard Facts of Life, Bear Family
Nick Lowe, Jesus of Cool 30th Anniversary Edition, Yep Roc
Kim Tolliver, Come and Get Me, I’m Ready, Reel Music

Del Fuegos reissues, Wounded Bird

 

ANNOYING:

-The apparently uncontrollable urge to text right now
in your car, at shows, etc.
-Freak folk
-The Internet

 

COOLEST:

Vinyl’s stubborn refusal to die.

 

 

——————————————————

 

 

JIM ALLEN

 

ALBUMS:

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (XL)

The Week That Was – The Week That Was (Memphis Industries)

Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch (Warner Bros)

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Sunday at Devil Dirt (Fontana)

Brent Cash – How Will I Know If I’m Awake (Marina)

Janiva Magness –  What Love Will Do (Alligator)

Sun Kil Moon – April (Caldo Verde)

Make A Rising – Infinite Ellipse and Head With Open Fontanel
(High Two)

David Olney – Live at Norm’s River Roadhouse Vol. 1
(Deadbeet)

 

 

————————————————————

 

 

RICK ALLEN

 

ALBUMS:

Phil Lee – So Long It’s Been Good To Know You –
Pallookaville

The Duhks-Fast Paced World – Sugarhill

The Waifs – Sundirtwater – Compass Records

B.B. King- One Kind Favor – Geffen Records

Jim Lauderdale – Honey Songs – Yep Roc Records

Heybale – The Last Country Album – Shuffle5 Records

Richard Bennett – Code Red Cloud Nine – Everywhere Man

Steve Hunter – Short Stories – Deaconrecords

Denice Franke – Gulf
Coast Blue – Certain
Records

Aimee Mann – @%&*! Smilers – Superego Records

Ruby Rendrag – Wartime Favorites – Ruby Rendrag

Amy Lennard – I Need To Love – Hold Your Own Records

Howlin’ Wolf – Rockin’ The Blues – Live In Germany 1964 – Acrobat Records

Mark Erelli – Delivered – Signature Records

 

REISSUES:

Very Best Of Little Richard – Specialty

Hank Williams – The Unreleased Recordings – Time Life
Entertainment

Bob Wills – Tiffany Transcriptions – Collector’s Choice

Roy Orbison – The Soul Of Rock and Roll – Sony Legacy

Love – Forever Changes (Collector’s Edition) – Rhino Records

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Wink Keziah

Ruby Rendrag

Amy Lennard

Samuel James

Homemade Jamz Blues Band

 

ANNOYING:

Twyla Tharp’s Bob Dylan Musical: The Times They Are
A’Changin’

Rock Of Ages Off Broadway Show

Taking American Idol winners seriously

Sweater-vest rock

James Blunt (Hall Of Fame)

 

DVDS:

Merle Haggard – Live In Austin Texas – New West

Parliament Funkadelic – The Mothership Connection Live 1976
– Shout Factory

The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 1969-1971 –
Sony Columbia
Legacy

 

BOOKS:

Jimi Hendrix: An Illustrated
Experience – Atria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEST OF 2008 REDUX: Top 50 And More

More of our toppermost
of the poppermost. This time our contributors get the last word in.

 

 

BY THE EDITORS

 

 

To recap: yes, we thought 2008 was an amazing year for music – new, reissued, live, on film and in books.
The BLURT crew put our heads together, picked the brains of our contributing
writers, and listened to the comments of our readers and arrived at, not so
much a concrete consensus (that would be impossible, given the subjective
nature of list-making), but certainly a representative overview of the past
twelve months.

 

Below you’ll find our complete Top 50 Albums list from 2008;
our pithy descriptions, along with some selected “Best Of the Rest” categories,
follow. To view sleeve art and other spiffy stuff, click over to the BLURT
digital magazine (the one with the photo of our number one pick of the year,
Jessica Lea Mayfield, on the cover) HERE.

 

In addition to the Top 50 and Best Of the Rest, we also have
the individual lists of some of our staffers and contributing writers. Don’t
like what you see? Hey, take it up with them, or go make your own list! But we
think you’ll find plenty of food for thought just the same.

 

 

***

 

 

BLURT’S TOP 50
ALBUMS OF 2008

 

 

1. Jessica Lea Mayfield – With Blasphemy So Heartfelt
(Polymer)

2. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

3. Shearwater – Rook (Matador)

4. Calexico – Carried To Dust (1/4 Stick/Touch & Go)

5. Future Clouds and Radar – Peoria
(Star Apple Kingdom)

6. Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan)

7. Lykke Li -Youth Novels (LL Recordings)

8. Joseph Arthur & the
Lonely Astronauts – Temporary People (Lonely Astronaut)

9. Santogold – Santogold (Downtown)

10 Thalia Zedek Band – Liars and Prayers (Thrill Jockey)

11. James McMurtry – Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)

12. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

13. Black Keys – Attack and Release (Nonesuch)

14. The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia (Sub Pop)

15. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey (Lost Highway)

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (Vagrant Records)

16. Dead Confederate – Wrecking Ball (Razor & Tie)

17. Cold War Kids – Loyalty To Loyalty (Downtown)

18. Dr. Dog – Fate (Park the Van)

19. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III (Cash
Money)

20. Nick
Cave and the Bad Seeds –
Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (Mute)

21. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New
West)

22. Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy)

23. Deerhunter – Microcastle (Kranky)

24. TV on the Radio – Dear Science (Interscope)

25. Okkervil
River – The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

26. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges (ATO)

27. Of Montreal
– Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)

28. Deerhoof – Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars)

29. Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)

30. King Khan and The Shrines – The Supreme Genius of…
(Vice)

31. Joan as Police Woman – To Survive (Cheap Lullaby)

32. Giant Sand – proVISIONS (Yep Roc)

33. Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls (In The Red)

34. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)

35. Delta Spirit – Ode to the Sunshine (Rounder)

36. Howlin Rain – Magnificent Fiend
(American)

37. Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
(Beggars Banquet)

38. She and Him -Volume 1 (Merge)

39. Vampire Weekend – Vampire
Weekend (XL)

40. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Pt. One:
4th World War (Motown)

41. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Lie Down in the Light (Drag City)

42. Black
Mountain – In the Future
(Jagjaguwar)

43. Portishead – Third (Mercury)

44. Theresa Andersson – Hummingbird, Go! (Basin Street)

45. Duffy – Rockferry (Mercury)

46. Silver Jews – Lookout
Mountain, Lookout
Sea (Drag City)

47. Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple (Downtown)

48. Wolf Parade -At Mount Zoomer
(Sub Pop)

49. Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk)

50. Wovenhand – Ten Stones (Sounds Familyre)

 

 

INDIVIDUAL ALBUM
DESCRIPTIONS

 

 

1) Jessica Lea
Mayfield

With Blasphemy So Heartfelt (Polymer Sounds)

“I always look at things from a dark point of view,”
Jessica Lea Mayfield advises BLURT. “I’m an upbeat person when you meet me, but
for some reason I cannot write a happy song.” Indeed, the Ohio native’s
long-playing debut is pitch-dark and emotionally-saturated, pulling from rock,
indie and folk music to create some mutant blend of alt-Americana. It’s her
singular vision, piercing like a southern gothic author, and haunting voice – a
slurrysexycool cross between Jolie Holland, Edie Brickell and PJ Harvey, if you
can dig it – that captivated the BLURT staff upon the album’s release (on
producer/Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach’s Polymer label) in September. And
as we lived with the album, the realization grew that we were witnessing the
flowering of a major artist; so much so, that in addition to picking With Blasphemy So Heartfelt our top
album of 2008, Mayfield must surely be our Best New Artist, too. That’s our own
imprimatur, certainly, but when you consider some of the musicians she edged
out – among them, Lykke Li, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and She & Him – it’s
nothing less than an article of faith, too. Don’t ever give up that darkness,
Jessica. It becomes you.

 

 

2) Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

WE SAID: “Folksy at its core, but unwilling to pledge
allegiance to either the freak-folk movement or the army of bearded porch-pop
players, For Emma is a unique piece
of elegiac elegance.”

 

3) Shearwater

Rook (Matador)

WE SAID: “The album heralds [Jonathan] Meiburg’s leap from
gifted song stylist to master conductor and arranger- he’s been building
towards this moment.”

 

4) Calexico

Carried to Dust (Touch & Go)

WE SAID: “Over the course of their career Joey Burns and
John Convertino have created a readily identifiable blend of mariachi,
spaghetti western, ambling country and desert blues, and Carried to Dust is another version of its perfection.”

 

5) Future Clouds
& Radar

Peoria (Star Apple Kingdom)

WE SAID: “Peoria does have a sonic immediacy, but like
its predecessor it’s also an ambitious, complex work that demands multiple
listening sessions for its many subtleties and nuances to reveal themselves.”

 

6) Alejandro Escovedo

Real Animal (Back Porch)

WE SAID: “Real Animal brings together Escovedo’s roots in punk (“Chelsea”), country (“People”),
chamber pop (“Sister Lost Soul”), and Stonesy blues-rock (“Smoke” and “Real
Animal”) in a cohesive musical and lyrical narrative tracing the course of
Escovedo’s thirty-year-long career.”

 

7) Lykke Li

Youth Novels (LL Recordings)

WE SAID: “22-year-old Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson ain’t your
average Swedish pop/dance star… she crafts fascinating musical vehicles for
her lithe voice and swelling choruses.”

 

8) Joseph Arthur
& the Lonely Astronauts

Temporary People (Lonely Astronaut)

WE SAID: “A widescreen collection of mini-symphonies as
memorable as they come. It’s a career-capper in every sense of the word, an
album that should permanently install Arthur in the minds of the public.”

 

9) Santogold

Santogold (Downtown)

WE SAID: “Pan-cultural, like M.I.A., but deliciously sautéed
in the melting pot of the U.S.A. Dub, poppy New Wave, electro/hip-hop and more
swirl around her lusciously chirpy vocals. You can dance your ass off to her,
too.”

 

10) Thalia Zedek

Liars and Prayers (Thrill Jockey)

WE SAID: “And that voice! The former Come frontwoman sounds
like a more gravelly version of Patti Smith on a few of these songs, and her
lyrical work, laced with subtle political commentary, results in some
fascinating takes on everyday relations.”

 

11) James McMurtry

Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)

WE SAID: “If you’ve heard ‘God Bless America,’ the bitter,
biting indictment of our political and corporate leaders first released in 2007,
then all you really need to know about Just
Us Kids
is that it’s not even the best song on the album, which is the best
of McMurtry’s career.”

 

12) Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

WE SAID: “Picture My Morning Jacket’s Jim James sitting
around a campfire with Crosby, Stills and Nash and you’ll get the idea. Fleet
Foxes can be beautifully intimate (‘White Winter Hymnal’) or create a sound
that seems as wide and open as the Plains (‘Ragged Wood’).”

 

13) The Black Keys

Attack and Release (Nonesuch)

WE SAID: “From the get-go, there’s a lot to assimilate. It’s
not like they got a bassist or anything, but the Black Keys entering a studio
to record their fifth long player is a big change. The end result is the Keys’
most expansive record. Crank it up.”

 

14) The Gutter Twins

Saturnalia (Sub Pop)

WE SAID: “For all its sludgy slow electric pianos and
“Ohio”-like guitar squeak, Lanegan sounds like he’s having the time of his
life. That’s what hanging around your best pal (Dulli) will do for you.”

 

15) Lucinda Williams

Little Honey (Lost Highway)

WE SAID: “From the album’s opening track, the surging,
angular, almost punk-feeling riff-rocker “Real Love”; through several blues
compositions, country-honker “Well Well Well” and the swampy,  slide/ harp-fueled “Heavy Blues;” Little
Honey never falters.”

 

16) Dead Confederate

Wrecking Ball (Razor & Tie)

WE SAID: “Dead Confederate retain hints of Southern rock,
but where that genre can be predictable this cranks a left turn and crashes
into Nirvana-stained grunge and takes it to blurry new terrain where everyone’s
eyes are dilated and dark as wet pavement.”

 

17) Cold War Kids

Loyalty to Loyalty (Downtown)

WE SAID: “Cut to the chase: Loyalty to Loyalty is a scary fucking record, an indie rock version
of the Rolling Stones at their darkest, a whole album as harrowing as “Midnight
Rambler” or “Gimme Shelter… it haunts your dreams.”

 

18) Dr. Dog

Fate (Park the Van)

WE SAID: “It’s how they wear their inspirations on their
sleeve that makes them more than just the sum of some really cool record
collections. That, and the way they’ve filtered damn near everything that
wasn’t nailed down through their own distinct approach.”

 

19) Lil Wayne

Tha Carter III (Cash Money)

WE SAID: “The long-awaited album has finally arrived, and
feel free to rejoice: it was worth the wait. Don’t let the ‘Lollipop’ fool you.
There’s more to Lil Wayne than just candy-as-sex (see: Marcy Playground) puns.
In fact, there may be enough here to name him the new best rapper alive.”

 

20) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Dig!! Lazarus Dig!! (Mute)

WE SAID: “Dig‘s
sneering, bleary-eyed tracks have a bold potency to go with their fuzz-tone
organ’s pop-psychedelic fizzle and frying guitars. It’s positively
cum-filled.”

 

21) Drive-By Truckers

Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)

WE SAID: “At 19 songs and 75 minutes, this could be a
sprawling, meandering mess. Instead, Brighter is one of the more tightly-focused, energized DBT records to date.”

 

22) Gaslight Anthem

The ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy)

WE SAID: “Springsteen comparisons are a dime-a-dozen these
days, but these guys actually deserve it, far more than Arcade Fire or even the
Hold Steady, as much for vocalist/guitarist’s Brian Fallon’s wild and innocent
vocals as for the band’s unabashed belief that rock and roll is a life-or-death
proposition.”

 

23) Deerhunter

Microcastle (Kranky)

WE SAID: “Yes, Deerhunter is as good as the prescient
blogging community and new-music-obsessed youth say they are. Resistance is
futile, so turn it on, turn it up, and, at least for 40 minutes or so, tune the
rest of the world out.”

 

24) TV on the Radio

Dear Science (Interscope)

WE SAID: “TVOTR has become unstuck in rhyme, beat and
overall execution. It’s pretty interesting to observe the pull-and-tug, and on
an individual basis, many of the new songs rank among the band’s best.”

 

 

25) Okkervil River

The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

WE SAID: “Will Sheff’s nesting doll narratives fire big
sloppy anthems and balladeer dramas about self-important singer-songwriters, magazine
models, gay glam rockers, and anyone else who was ever put on a pedestal or
aspired to be (and those who put them there).”

 

26) My Morning Jacket

Evil Urges (ATO)

WE SAID: “MMJ are grounded in their earthy, Kentucky roots but their
branches and leaves stretch into the cosmos. Free of genres and restrictions,
they’re a distinctly American band that the whole universe can get down with.”

 

27) Of Montreal

Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)

WE SAID: “Kevin Barnes’ songwriting remains as surreal,
scattered and frenetic as ever, a million ideas crammed into the space of 15
songs in just under an hour… this hectic formula has reaped great musical
rewards.”

 

28) Deerhoof

Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars)

WE SAID: “Deerhoof have fulfilled some of their greatest pop
potential here… overall, Offend Maggie is a
smashing success for the band, a big step up in content, arrangement, tonality, and accessible experimentation.”

 

29) Jenny Lewis

Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)

WE SAID: “While her Rilo Kiley lyrics are less personal,
here there’s a darker, deeper  mix of the
personal and the character-narrative, yet all the heavy heady sad moments are
also ripe with lightness of being.”

 

30) King Khan and The
Shrines

The Supreme Genius of… (Vice)

WE SAID: “Montreal
mayhemist King Khan (aka Blacksnake) made his name in the legendarily
destructive Spaceshits and in scorching garage rock partnership with Mark
Sultan, but he comes into his own with the R&B-horned Shrines.”

 

31) Joan as Police
Woman

To Survive (Cheap Lullaby)

WE SAID: “Joan Wasser’s captivating voice-from high to
mid-range, pleading and frail one minute, husky and dreamy 
the next-coupled with her lyrical smarts can really paint a picture.”

 

32) Giant Sand

proVISIONS (Yep Roc)

WE SAID: “The main thing you take away from proVISIONS is the schizophrenic
suggestion that these are the most polished and accessible off-the-cuff
improvisations Gelb’s ever done.”

 

33) Vivian Girls

Vivian Girls (In The Red)

WE SAID: “The Girls’ layered vocal harmonies and echo
chamber recording sound like a lo-fi Phil Spector Wall of Sound. But this Brooklyn-based
band injects oodles of punk rock spirit, power chords, and technique into its
‘60s pop.”

 

34) Girl Talk

Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)

WE SAID: “The talent behind Girl Talk is his taste when it
comes to the treatments – like the window dressing your girlfriend puts in your office that
makes you smile or scowl. You’ll want to hear Dan Gillis zip through the
culture in Ratatat-meets-Paul’s Boutique fashion like a pitch-shifting snippet-stealing bar mitzvah DJ swallowing globs
of amber crystal meth.”

 

35) Delta Spirit

Ode to the Sunshine (Rounder)

WE SAID: “Think Stones and Band coursing through the veins
of these lapsed punks, whose take on traditional Americana might actually be closer to the
true emo-tional spirit than all the emo bands out there.”

 

36) Howlin Rain

Magnificent Fiend (American/Birdman)

WE SAID: “These cuts are so old-fashioned, they’re almost
fresh by default. In the end, though, what’s remarkable is not how well Howlin
Rain remembers the 1960s, but how completely it forgets everything that came
after.”

 

37) Mountain Goats

Heretic Pride (Beggars Banquet)

WE SAID: “From the angry, piano-tingled title song to the
desperate, devastating ‘Craters of the Moon’ to the bloody flashrock of
‘Lovecraft in Brooklyn,’ John Darnielle
channels his anger into grist for some of his strongest songs in a while.”

 

38) She and Him

Volume 1 (Merge)

WE SAID: “…and that’s what probably made this first (but
not last, insist both) Volume so
rich: they formed a bond because he’s a boldly intuitive producer and she’s a
dynamic sympathetic voice and recording partner that entered and exited She
& Him together.”

 

 

39) Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend (XL)

WE SAID: “Their breezy, endless weekend sound makes them a
sure shot to become Gen Z’s answer to Jimmy Buffett- which beats the hundreds
of bands copying Dave Matthews now.”

 

40) Erykah Badu

New Amerykah, Pt. One: 4th World War (Motown)

WE SAID: “A stunning, and overdue, return-to-form from the
soul-jazz mistress, this time boasting gutsy hip-hop riddims,
explosive-to-the-point-of-psychedelic arrangements and some pointedly political dropping-of-science.”

 

41) Bonnie ‘Prince’
Billy

 Lie Down in the Light
(Drag City)

WE SAID: “Having polished his distinctive brand of spare,
spooky Southern gothic folk-rock until it’s a genre unto itself, Will Oldham
decides to loosen the reins, indulging his country-cinematic side for an
upbeat, uplifting set of tunes.”

 

42) Black Mountain

In the Future (Jagjaguwar)

WE SAID: “The Canuck quintet clears the bong and coughs up
another masterpiece. They weave a tapestry of trippy tunes both heavy and deep
– a tight, intense ride, all sound and fury signifying awesome.”

 

43) Portishead

Third (Mercury)

WE SAID: “Maybe you thought the UK trio was gone for good; turns
out they were just digging deeper into their brooding, moody mindset. It may
have taken eleven years but you can’t rush the kind of genius we find on Third.”

 

44) Theresa Andersson

Hummingbird, Go! (Basin
Street)

WE SAID: “From the very start, you sense you’re in the
presence of something special: opening track ‘Na Na Na,’ with its strings,
Calexico-like percussion and guitars, and buoyantly keening vocals, is one of
those insta-anthems that sticks in your mind after a single listen.”

 

45) Duffy

Rockferry (Mercury)

WE SAID: “Don’t hold Amy Ann Duffy’s good looks or prefab
sound against her. The 24-year-old Wales native is no different in
concept-a bold vocalist backed by a phalanx of older men-than Petula Clark,
Dusty Springfield, or any of the other ‘60s artists mentioned in the same
breath.”

 

46) Silver Jews

Lookout Mountain, Lookout
Sea (Drag City)

WE SAID: “It may not take a genius to pen lyrics such as
‘How much fun is a lot more fun/Not much fun at all,’ but it does require a certain
enviable madness to write a song about a ‘Suffering Jukebox’ and still sound as
winningly innocent as a grade-school choir.”

 

47) Gnarls Barkley

The Odd Couple (Downtown)

WE SAID: “You must be crazy if you don’t love ‘em. From the jittery, paranoid ‘Run’ to the bluesily soulful
‘Who’s Gonna Save My Soul’ the duo matches the extant excellence of their
previous St. Elsewhere.”

 

 

48) Wolf Parade

At Mount
Zoomer (Sub Pop)

WE SAID: “The album-renamed from the original title, Kissing the Beehive-may include only
nine tracks, but they’re a melodic mix, with singer Spencer Krug and his crew
drawing heavily from the sounds of David Bowie, Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire.”

 

49) Mates of State

Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk)

WE SAID: “Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel are occasionally
(with a wink) lumped into the so-called ‘couple-core’ subgenre of indie rock, and in
truth, their buoyant, hooky, hypnotic pop has a delightfully reassuring
traditional-values vibe.”

 

50) Wovenhand

Ten Stones (Sounds Familyre)

WE SAID: “More like a band effort than another de facto
David Eugene Edwards solo release, it’s wildly diverse, everything from gothic-tinged
bossa nova to hard-rocking psychedelia to Edwards’ signature droney, atmospheric,
apocalyptic folk.”

 

 

 

***

 

 

BEST OF THE REST

 

 

 

BEST NEW ARTIST:

1) Jessica Lea Mayfield

 

Lykke Li

Bon Iver

Fleet Foxes

She & Him

 

 

 

BEST MUSIC
FILMS/DOCUMENTARIES:

1) Lou Reed Berlin,
dir. by Julian Schnabel  (Genius)

 

Control (Ian Curtis/Joy Division), dir. by Anton Corbijn
(The Weinstein Company)

Arthur Russell – Wild Combination, dir. by Matt Wolf
(Plexifilm)

Silver Jews – Silver Jew (Drag City)

Flaming Lips – Christmas On Mars (Warner Bros.)

 

 

BEST
REISSUE/ARCHIVAL:

1) Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean
Blue (Caribou/Legacy)

 

Rodriguez – Cold Fact (Light In The Attic)

Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc)

Replacements – catalog reissues (Rhino)

The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium (Epic/Legacy)

 

 

BEST BOOK:

1) Mike Edison – I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales
of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues,
American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World
(Faber & Faber)

 

Alex Ross – The Rest
Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
(Picador)

Danny Goldberg – Bumping
Into Geniuses: My Life Inside The Rock And Roll
Business (Gotham Books)

Thurston Moore and Byron Coley – No Wave Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980. (Harry Abrams Publishing)

Juliana Hatfield – When I Grow Up (Wiley)

 

 

BIGGEST OBSESSIONS:

 

BEEFCAKE:

Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal)

Jay Reatard

Will Scheff (Okkervil
River)

Lil Wayne

Devendra Banhart

 

CHEESECAKE:

Lykke Li

Juliette Commagere

Lenka

Kaki King

Santogold

Zooey Deschanel

 

 

BEST LIVE SHOW:

1) Of Montreal

 

Avett Brothers

Alejandro Escovedo

My Morning Jacket

Sun City Girls

 

 

BEST TOUR:

1) Hold Steady + Drive-By Truckers

 

Radiohead

Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

 

 

COOLEST WHATEVER:

Finally! Democracy! (Obama gets elected)

Vinyl’s stubborn refusal to die

NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concerts

The “Wassup 2008” YouTube video

Radiohead’s webcasts

 

 

MOST ANNOYING
WHATEVER:

The death of print music magazines

Download-only tracks not available on disc

Kanye West

Camel and Rolling
Stone
‘s “Indie Rock Universe”

The overuse – use, actually – of auto-tune

 

 

 

BLURT STAFF + WRITERS’
BEST-OF LISTS FOR 2008 (PART 1)

 

 

 

FRED MILLS, Blurt
Managing Editor
(fmills@blurt-online.com)

 

TOP ALBUMS:

Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts – Temporary People
(Lonely Astronaut)

Theresa Andersson – Hummingbird, Go! (Basin Street)

Calexico – Carried To Dust (1/4 Stick/Touch & Go)

Wovenhand – Ten Stones (Sounds Familyre)

Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan)    

Future Clouds and Radar – Peoria
(Star Apple Kingdom)

Toubab Krewe – Live at the Orange
Peel (Upstream)

The Verve – Forth (On Your
Own/Megaforce)

Steve Wynn – Crossing
Dragon Bridge
(Rock Ridge)

The Ettes – Look At Life Again Soon (Take Root)

Lykke Li – Youth Novels (LL)

Okkervil
River – The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

James McMurtry – Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)

Thalia Zedek Band – Liars and Prayers (Thrill Jockey)

Giant Sand – Provisions (Yep Roc)

Black Angels – Directions to See a Ghost (Light In The
Attic)

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)

Santogold – Santogold (Downtown)

Aterciopelados – Rio
(Nacional)

The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia (Sub Pop)

Lucinda Williams – Little Honey (Lost Highway)

Portishead – Third (Island)

 

BEST REISSUES/ARCHIVAL:

Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean
Blue (Caribou/Legacy)

R.E.M. – Murmur Deluxe Edition (IRS/UMe)

Rodriguez – Cold Fact (Light In The Attic)

The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium (Epic/Legacy)

Saint Etienne – Boxette (Foreign Office)

Individuals – Fields/Aquamarine (Bar/None)

Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff Deluxe Edition (Sub Pop)
Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

Van Duren – Are You Serious? (Water)

Neil Young – Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 (Reprise)

Bob Dylan –  Telltale
Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 (Columbia/Legacy)

Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac Deluxe Edition (Geffen)

Damon & Naomi – More Sad Hits (20/20/20)

Suicide – Live 1977-1978 (Blast First Petite)

Blue Ash – “No More, No Less” (Collectors Choice)

U2 – October Deluxe Edition (Island/UMe)

Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville (ATO)

Cheap Trick  – Budokan! 30th Anniversary Edition
(Epic/Legacy)

Various Artists – Carolina
Funk: First In Funk 1968-1977 (Jazzman)

Various Artists – Do The Pop! Redux Part One (Savage Beat/Shock
Australia)

 

BEST MUSIC FILMS/DOCUMENTARIES:

Control (Ian Curtis/Joy Division), dir. by Anton Corbijn
(The Weinstein Company)

Arcade Fire – Miroir Noir, dir. by Vincent Morisset
(miroir-noir.com download)

Flaming Lips – Christmas On Mars (Warner Bros.)

Joe Strummer – The Future is Unwritten, dir. Julian Temple
(Sony Legacy)

Holy Modal Rounders – Bound to Lose, dir. by Sam Wainwright Douglas, Jesse Fisher, Francis Hatch and
Paul Lovelace (Badbird)

Dan Deacon – Ultimate Reality, dir. by Jimmy Joe Roche (Carpark)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, dir. by Lou Adler
(Rhino reissue)

Sigur Ros – Heima (XL Recordings)

 

BEST NEW ARTISTS:

Theresa Andersson

Lykke Li

Gaslight Anthem

Santogold

Benji Hughes

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Toubab Krewe

The Heavy

Duffy

Zach Hill

 

BEST BOOKS:

Mike Edison – I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of
Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues,
American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World
(Faber & Faber)

Juliana Hatfield – When I Grow Up (Wiley)

Emma Pettit & Kathe Monem,
eds. – Old Rare New: The Independent
Record Shop
(Black Dog)

John Einarson & Chris Hillman
Hot Burritos: The True Story of the
Flying Burrito Brothers
(Jawbone)

Isis Aquarian with Electricity Aquarian – The Source: The
Untold Story of Father Yod, Yahowa 13 and the Source Family
(Process Media)

Thurston Moore & Byron Coley – No Wave: Post-Punk.
Underground. New York.
1976-1980. (Harry Abrams Books)

 

BIGGEST OBSESSIONS:

Lykke Li

Katie Price (aka Jordan)

Barack Obama/John McCain (tie)

 

BEST LIVE SHOW:

Avett Brothers Dec. 28, Orange Peel, Asheville NC

Alejandro Escovedo July 15, Orange Peel, Asheville NC

Theresa Andersson October 18, Grey Eagle, Asheville NC

Warren Haynes Christmas Jam Dec. 12 & 13, Asheville Civic Center, Asheville NC

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals March 6, Orange Peel, Asheville NC

Jason Isbell July 23, Grey Eagle, Asheville NC

 

BEST CONCERT TOUR:

Hold Steady + Drive-By Truckers

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

 

COOLEST WHATEVER:

-The “Wassup 2008” YouTube video for Obama.

-LEGO classic album cover recreations.

-USB turntables and cassette decks.

Achewood (www.achewood.com), which ain’t exactly the
next Get Your War On but, with that
scheduled to fold, it’s the next best thing.

-Band of Horses & James McMurtry play BLURT’s
post-Austin City Limits show on Sept. 27, 
a combined coming-out party for us and a benefit for the Health Alliance for
Austin Musicians. (It was an instant sellout when tickets went on sale Sept.
19,  by the way.) Pardon us while we blow
our own horn.

 

MOST ANNOYING:

-Harp magazine –
BLURT’s predecessor – gets the ax in the middle of SXSW and I have to spend the
rest of the festival trying to explain to people what happened.

-Labels and publicists trying to pass of digital promotional servicing as “green” when they’re really
just trying to save money (the former) and being lazy (the latter).

-Republicans.

-“The New CSNY/Grateful Dead” (Fleet Foxes et al) movement of snooze-core folkies.

-Having to do these damn best-of lists year after year when
we all know that nobody gives a shit what rock critics think.

 

 

————————————-

 

 

ANDY TENNILLE, Blurt
Associate Editor
(atennille@blurt-online.com)

 

ALBUMS:

Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal (Back Porch)

Drive By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (ATO Records)

The Felice Brothers, The Felice Brothers (Team Love)

Howlin Rain, Magnificent Fiend (American)

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Dear Science, TV on the Radio (DGC/Interscope)

Jessica Lea Mayfield, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

Erykah Badu, New Amerykah, Part One (4th World War) (Motown)

Blitzen Trapper, Furr (Sub Pop)

The Raconteurs, Consolers Of The Lonely (XL)

Backyard Tire Fire, The Places We Lived (Hyena Records)

The Weather Underground, Bird in The Hand EP

Dead Confederate, Wrecking Ball (Razor & Tie)

MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (Sony)

Kings of Leon,
Only by the Night (Sony BMG)

The Voices of Como, Como Now (Daptone)

The Dirtbombs, We Have You Surrounded (In The Red)

Etran Finatwa, Desert Crossroads (Riverboat)

 

REISSUES:

Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean
Blue

The Clash, Live at Shea Stadium

Whiskeytown, Strangers Almanac

Bob Dylan, Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8

Good God! Soul Messages from Dimona (Numero
Group)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Jessica Lea Mayfield

The Felice Brothers

Fleet Foxes

The Weather Underground

Dead Confederate

 

TOUR:

Blitzen Trapper/Fleet Foxes, Spring 2008

Etran Finatawa/Vieux Farka Toure, Fall 2008

Drive-By Truckers/Hold Steady

Avett Brothers/Jessica Lea Mayfield

 

ANNOYING:

Kayne West, Bonnaroo 2008

Vampire Weekend

Blake “Incarcerated” Fielder-Civil

Live Nation’s “360-degree” artist deals

Bands whose albums break based on Internet hype but can’t
play a lick live

 

DVD:

Wetlands Preserved: The Story Of An Activist Rock Club

 

BOOKS:

Da Capo’s Best Music
Writing 2008

1,000 Recordings To
Hear Before You Die

 

——————————————-

 

 

A.D. AMOROSI, Blurt
Associate Editor
(divaland@aol.com)

 

ALBUMS:

Joan as Police Woman – To Survive (Cheap Lullaby

MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing – This is Our Moosic (Hot
Cup)

Byrne/Eno – Everything That Happens will Happen Today  (Todo Mundo)

Matthew Herbert Big Band – There’s Me and there’s You (CFP

Aterciopelados – Rio
(Nacional)

Monkey: Journey To The West (XL)

Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds
– Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (anti)

Portishead – Third (Mercury)

Ximena Sarinana – Mediocre (WB)

Ting Tings – We Started Nothing (Columbia)

Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit
Gold (Rhymesayers)

Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It (Sony)

Talkdemonic – Eyes at Half Mast (Arena Rock

Kanye West – 808s + Heartbreak (Def Jam)

King Khan and The Shrines — The Supreme Genius of… (Vice
Records)

Diplo- Blow Your Head EP (Mad Decent)

Matthew Gerken, Jefferson Pitcher,
Christian Kiefer – Of Great and Mortal Men:
43 Songs for 43 U.S.
Presidencies (Standard)

TV on the Radio –
Dear Science (Interscope)

Hercules and Love
Affair – Hercules and Love Affair (Mute)

 

REISSUES:

Anthony Braxton The
Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton (Mosaic)

Philip Glass – Glass
Box: A Nonesuch Retrospective (Nonesuch)

Various artists –
Titan!: It’s All Pop (Numero Group)

Miles Davis Kind of
Blue 50th Anniversary (Columbia/Legacy)

Ornette Coleman
Town Hall 1962 (ESP-Disk)

Hank Williams – The
Unreleased Recordings (Time Life)

Genesis – 1970-1975
(Rhino)

Suicide – Live
1977-1978 (Blast First)
Various artists – Eccentric Soul: The Young Disciples (Numero
Group)

Bob Dylan – Tell
Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series Vol. 8 (Columbia/Legacy)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Little Joy

Kilroy

The Model

Gemini Wolf

Tobacco

 

DVDS:

Flaming Lips –
Christmas on Mars

Arthur Russell –
Wild Combination

 

BOOKS

Thurston Moore and Byron Coley -No Wave Post-Punk.
Underground. New York.
1976-1980. (Harry Abrams Books)

Philip Norman – John Lennon: The Life (Ecco)

 

WORST TREND:

Download only tracks

Barack Obama

Wilco doing more stuff

 

 

———————————————————–

 

 

JEN KELLY

 

ALBUMS:

1. Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal
2. The Dirtbombs, We Have You Surrounded
3. Woven Hand Ten Stones
4. Thalia Zedek Band, Liars and Prayers
5. The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia
6. Man Man, Rabbit Habits
7. Experimental Aircraft, Third Transmission
8. Human Bell, Human Bell
9. Mt. Eerie and Julie Doiron, Lost Wisdom
10. Jay Reatard, The Matador Singles

 

REISSUES:

1. Big Dipper, Supercluster
2. Roy Harper, stormcock,

3. Ian Matthews, If You Could See Thru My Eyes
4. The Friggs, Today Is Tomorrow’s Yesterday
5. Karen Dalton, Green Rocky Road

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Bon Iver

Thank You

Larkin Grimm

Lykke Li

Lights

Human Bell

 

ANNOYING: 

Lo-fi as a mannerism…see Crystal Castles, caUSE-coMOTION
and, especially, especially Vivian Girls.

 

——————————————

 

 

JASON GROSS

 

ALBUMS:

The Whigs “Mission Control” (ATO)

Hot Chip “Made in the Dark” (Astralwerks)

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack “Honeydripper”
(Rhino)

The Mountain Goats “Heretic Pride” (Beggars
Banquet)

The Heavy “Great Vengence & FUrious Fire”
(Ninja Tune)

Los Campesinos! “Hold On Now, Youngster…”

Clark “Turning Dragon” (Warp)

James McMurty “Just Us Kids” (Lightning Rod)

Absentee “Victory Shorts” (Memphis Industries)

Münchener Kammerorchester “Haydn, Yun: Farewell –

Symphonies Nos. 39 and 45 / Chamber Symphony I” (ECM)

Paul Westerberg “49:00” (Dry Wood Music)

Girl Talk “Feed the Animals” (Illegal Art)

GZA “Pro Tools” (Babygrande)

Lil Wayne “Tha Carter III” (Cash Money)

Martha Wainwright “I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got
Feelings Too” (Zoe)

Lucinda Williams “Little Honey” (Lost Highway)

The Knux “Remind Me In 3 Days…” (Interscope)

Nine Inch Nails “The Slip” (nin.com)

Okkervil
River “The Stand
Ins” (Jagjaguwar)

Mavis Staples “Live: Hope at the Hideout” (Anti-)

 

REISSUES:

Fairport Convention “Unhalfbricking” (Water)

Nick Lowe “Jesus of Cool” (Yep Roc)

Mission of Burma
“Vs” (Matador)

Pavement “Brighten the Corners- Deluxe Edition”
(Matador)

Blue Ash “No More, No Less” (Collectors Choice)

Philip Glass “Glass Box: A Nonesuch Retrospective”
(Nonesuch)

Johnny Cash “At Folsom Prison” (Columbia/Legacy)

Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter “Old Records Never

Die: The Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter Anthology” (Shout
Factory)

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic “Dawn of the Cycads”
(Cunieform)

Various Artists “Analog Africa No. 3: African Scream
Contest (Analog Africa)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Pretty and Nice

Killa Kella

Brother Kite

Beat Union

Lykke Li

 

TOUR:

The Bottle Rockets

Neil Innes

Manuel Göttsching

Sun City Girls

Gwar

 

ANNOYING:

Britney’s insistence on not disappearing

“Chinese Democracy” finally coming out

Bookstores closing

Record Stores closing

Newspapers cutting staff

 

DVDS:

“The Holy Modal Rounders- Bound to Lose”

“Young at Heart”

 

BOOKS:

Alex Ross “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the
Twentieth Century” (Picador)

David Sheppard “On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times
of Brian Eno” (Orion)

 

————————————————–

 

 

BEN WESTOFF

 

ALBUMS:

Wolf Parade, At Mount
Zoomer (Sub Pop)

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III (Cash Money)

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (XL)

Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk)

The Magnetic Fields Distortion (Nonesuch)

9th Wonder and Buckshot The Formula (Duck Down)

Vast Aire, Deuces Wild (One Records)

Jamie Lidell, Jim (Warp)

Jake One, White Van Music (Rhymesayers)

Deerhunter
Microcastle (Kranky)

 

BOOKS:
Marybeth Hamilton, “In Search Of The Blues”
Steven Kurutz, “Like A Rolling Stone”
Tyler Gray, “The Hit Charade: Lou Pearlman, Boy Bands, and the Biggest Ponzi Scheme In U.S. History”

 

 

————————————————-

 

 

REV. KEITH GORDON

 

ALBUMS:

1. Scott Kempner – Saving Grace (00:02:59 Records)

2. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy
Records)

3. B.B. King – One Kind Favor (Geffen Records)

4. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (Vagrant Records)

5. Buddy Guy – Skin Deep (Silvertone Records)

6. Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal (Back Porch Records)

7. Sonny Landreth – From The Reach (Landfall Records)

8. Joe Louis Walker – Witness To The Blues (Stony Plain)

9. Will Hogue – Draw The Curtain (Ryko)

10. Meshuggah – Obzen (Nuclear Blast)

 

 

REISSUES:

1. Nick Lowe – Jesus
Of Cool (Yep Roc Records)

2. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy & the Po’ Boys
(Fantasy Records)

3. The Replacements – Let
It Be (Rhino Records)

4. Drivin-N-Cryin – Fly
Me Courageous (American Beat Records)

5. Warren Zevon – Warren
Zevon (Rhino Records)

 

NEW ARTIST:

The Gaslight Anthem

 

DVDS:

Delbert McClinton & Friends – Rocking The Boat (JC Communications)

Cactus – Live (Music Video Distributors)

 

 

BOOKS:

Martin Popoff – Ye
Olde Metal: 1977 (Power Chord Press)

Ann Wicker, editor – Making
Notes: Music of the Carolinas (Novello)

 

TOUR:

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Dave Cousins & Ian Cutler

 

ANNOYING:

This year’s most annoying trend is the continued crappy
production and mastering of Albums on CD that removes all the creativity of
nuance and composition in favor of making the damn thing sound loud and uniform
when blasted through the listener’s iPod earbuds. Some of us still listen to
music the way that God and Chuck Berry intended… through a home stereo
system…and don’t need EQ that makes our ears bleed.

 

COOLEST:

That a multi-racial, mid-America-raised community organizer
from Chicago could defy mainstream media expectations to not only beat the
monolithic Clinton political machine but to also swarm the death star and knock
out the minions of the evil empire to be elected President of the United
States. 

 

 

———————————————-

 

 

CHUCK EDDY

 

ALBUMS:

1. Jamey Johnson – That Lonesome Song (Mercury)

2. The Knux – Remind Me In 3 Days… (Interscope)

3. Ne-Yo — Year Of The Gentleman (Def Jam)

4. James McMurtry – Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)

5. Sugarland – Love On The Inside (Mercury)

6. Amanda Shaw – Pretty Runs Out (Rounder)

7. Chris Knight – Heart Of Stone (Drifter’s Choice)

8. The Baseball Project – Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes And Dying
Quails (Yep Roc)

9. Reckless Kelly – Bulletproof (Yep Roc)

10. Old Crow Medicine Show – Tennessee Pusher (Nettwerk)  

11. Santogold – Santogold (Downtown)

12. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III (Cash Money/Universal Motown)

13. Labelle – Back To Now (Verve Forecast)

14. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (Vagrant)

15. Opeth – Watershed (Roadrunner)

16. Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan)

17. Jay Reatard – Singles 06-07 (In The Red)

18. Kathleen Edwards — Asking For Flowers (Zoe)

19. Hayes Carll – Trouble In Mind (Lost Highway)

20. Dolly Parton – Backwoods Barbie (Dolly)

 

REISSUES: 

1. Ross Johnson – Make It Stop!
The Most Of Ross Johnson (Goner)

2. Woodbox Gang – Drunk As
Dragons (Alternative Tentacles)

3. Banastre Tarleton Band –
Huzzah! Greatest Hits (Green Horse)

4.  (Various) – More Dirty
Laundry: The Soul Of Black
Country (Trikont)

5. Donnie Iris – Back On The
Streets/King Cool (American Beat)

6. Steinski – What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective (Illegal Art)

7. Charlie Pickett And-Bar Band Americanus: The Best Of
(Bloodshot)

8. Skafish – What’s This?:
1976-1979 (289)

9. Kid Creole – Going Places:
The August Darnell Years 1974-1983 (Strut)

10. The Individuals – Fields/Aquamarine (Bar None)

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Carter’s Chord

New Bloods

Home Blitz

Amanda Shaw

Beat Union

 

ANNOYING:

John Rich’s Republican bootlicking.

Convoluted critics bending over backwards to blame their
entirely predictable dislike of Katy Perry on her supposed homophobia.

The warped idea that anybody should care about a Metallica
album in 2009.

The warped idea that anybody should care about a Guns N
Roses album in 2009.

Digital promos
replacing ones I can hold in my hand.

 

 

—————————————–

 

BRIAN CREECH

 

ALBUMS:

1  “Fleet Foxes”  Fleet Foxes  Sub
Pop

2  “Feed the Animals”  Girl Talk
 Illegal Art

3 “Visiter” Dodos  French Kiss

4  “Stay Positive”  Hold Steady  
Vagrant  

5  “Volume 1”   She and Him   Merge

6   “The Stand Ins”  Okkervil River
  Jagjaguwar

7   “New Amerykah”  Erykah Badu  
Universal

8 “Lie Down in Light”  Bonnie
“Prince” Billy
 Drag City

9  “Blame it On Gravity”  Old 97s
 New West

10 “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!”   Nick Cave
and the Bad Seeds   Mute  

11  “Acid Tongue”  Jenny Lewis 
Warner Bros.

12  “Attack and Release”  Black Keys
 Nonesuch

13  “Brighter Than Creations Dark”  The
Drive-by Truckers   New West 

14  “Tha Carter III”  Lil Wayne
 Cash Money

15  “Graduation”  Kanye West 
Roc-A-Fella

 

REISSUES:

1  “Pleased to Meet Me”   The Replacements
   Rhino

2  “Stranger’s Almanac”  
 Whiskeytown   Geffen

3  “Exile in Guyville”   Liz Phair
   AKO

4  “The Bootleg Series Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs
 Live and unreleased 1989-2006”  Bob Dylan   Columbia 

5   “It’s a Shame About Ray”  
Lemonheads     Rhino

 

NEW ARTISTS:

1  Zooey Deschanel

2  Dodos

3  Fleet Foxes

4  No Age

5  Vampire Weekend

 

ANNOYING:

1  Skinny Jeans

2  stuffwhitepeoplelike.com

3  Li’l Wayne’s guitar playing

4  Weezer’s Self-titled albums

5  Jackson
5 reunion

 

TOUR:

1  Neil Young with Wilco

2  Hold Steady and Drive By Truckers

3  REM with Modest Mouse and the National

4  Durham,
NC’s Troika Festival

5  The Yard Dogs Road Show

 

DVDS:

1  Lou Reed’s Berlin

2  Silver Jew/ Silver Jews

 

BOOKS:

1  Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying Burrito
Brothers by John Einarson with Chris Hillman

2  “It Still Moves” by  Amanda Petrusich

 

 

——————————————

 

JOSE MARTINEZ

 

ALBUMS:

Guns N’ Roses “Chinese Democracy” (Geffen Records)

La Rocca “OK Okay” (Dangerbird Records)

Nada Surf “Lucky” (Barsuk)

JD Souther “If The World Was You” (Slow Curve)

The Bravery “The Sun and the Moon Complete” (Island Records)

Counting Crows “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings”
(Geffen Records)

The Airborne Toxic Event “The Airborne Toxic Event” (Major
Domo)

The (International) Noise Conspiracy “Cross Of My Calling”
(Vagrant)

The Subways “All Or Nothing” (Sire)

Oasis “Dig Out Your Soul” (Warner Bros/Elektra/Atlantic)

Kings of Leon
“Only By The Night” (RCA)

 Deerhoof “Offend
Maggie” (Kill Rock Stars

 AC/DC “Black Ice” (Columbia)

 

REISSUES:

Van Morrison “Catalog Reissues” (Universal)

Cheap Trick “Budokan! 30th Anniversary Edition” (Epic/Legacy)

Johnny Cash “At Folsom Prison: Legacy Edition”
(Columbia/Legacy)

 

BOOKS:

“Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside The Rock And Roll
Business” By Danny Goldberg (Gotham
Books)

“Reckless Road: Guns N’ Roses And The Making Of Appetite For
Destruction” By Marc Canter & Jason Porath (Shoot Hip Press)

 

FAVE MUSIC-THEMED DVDS

The Flaming Lips “Christmas On Mars” (Warner Bros.)

“Air Guitar Nation” (New Video)

 

 

——————————————————

 

ZACH HERRMANN

 

ALBUMS:

1)      The Walkmen – You & Me
(Gigantic Records)

2)      Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)

3)      The Black Keys – Attack
& Release  (Nonesuch)

4)      Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
(4AD)

5)      Vampire Weekend – Vampire
Weekend  (XL Recordings)

6)      Calexico – Carried To Dust
(Touch and Go/ Quarterstick Records)

7)      The Raconteurs – Consolers
of the Lonely  (Third Man Records/ Warner Bros.)

8)      Bonnie “Prince”
Billy – Lie Down in the Light (Drag
City)

9)      Paul Westerberg – 49:00
(Amazon.com)

10)  Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs – Dirt Don’t
Hurt  (Transdreamer)

 

 

REISSUES: 

1)      The Replacements remastered
albums – all of ’em (Rhino)

2)      The Clash – The Clash
Live at Shea Stadium
(Epic)

3)      The Byrds – Live at
Royal Albert Hall 1971
(Sundazed Music Inc.)

4)      The Magnetic Fields – The
Charm of the Highway Strip
180 gram vinyl (Merge Records

5)      Robyn Hitchcock – Luminous
Groove
(Yep Roc Records)

 

NEW ARTISTS: 

1)      Vampire Weekend

2)      Jessica Lea Mayfield

3)      She & Him

4)      The Last Shadow Puppets

5)      Hacienda

 

 

TOURS:

 1)      My Morning Jacket at
Bonnaroo 2008

2)      Radiohead – In Rainbows tour

3)      David Byrne – The Songs of
David Byrne and Brian Eno tour

4)      The Raconteurs – Consolers
of the Lonely
tour

5)      Robert Plant, Alison Krauss
and T Bone Burnett – Raising Sand tour

 

THINGS WE ALL COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: 

1)      The deaths of George
Carlin, Isaac Hayes and Tim Russert

2)      Rolling Stone‘s comparing
The Jonas Brothers to Big Star

3)      Kanye West v. The Media

4)      Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity
Revisited
album  

5)      Hurricanes

 

COOLEST:

1)      Election 2008 results

2)      Radiohead webcasts

 

DVDs

1) Love Story – documentary on Love (the band, not
the emotion)

2) Control – narrative film about Ian Curtis, Joy
Division

 

BOOKS:

Mike Edison – I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of
Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues,
American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World

 

 

——————————————————-

 

 

HAL BIENSTOCK

 

ALBUMS:

Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds,
Dig Lazarus Dig!!! (Anti-)

TV on the Radio, Dear Science (Interscope)

The Hold Steady, Stay Positive (Vagrant)

Langhorne Slim & the War Eagles (Kemado)

The Black Keys, Attack & Release (Nonesuch)

Mudcrutch (Warner Bros)

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

Blitzen Trapper, Furr (Sub Pop)

Drive By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)

No Age, Nouns (Sub Pop)

She & Him, Volume 1 (Merge)

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (ATO)

Raconteurs,  Consolers
of the Lonely (Warner Bros)

Calexico , Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)

Jay Reatard, Matador Singles ‘08 (Matador)

Death Vessel, Nothing is Precious Enough (Sub Pop)

Santogold (Downtown)

Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal (EMI)

Elvis Costello & the Imposters, Momofuku  (Lost Highway)

 

REISSUES:

Bob Dylan, Tell Tale Signs (Columbia)

The Clash, Live at Shea Stadium (Legacy)

Otis Redding, Live in London
and Paris (Stax)

Mission of Burma, Signals,
Calls & Marches/Vs. (Matador)

Mott the Hoople, Old Records Never Die (Shout Factory)

Replacements catalog (Rhino)

Neil Young, Live at Sugar Mountain
(Warner Brothers)

Nina Simone, To Be Loved (Legacy)

Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean
Blue (Legacy)

Big Dipper, Supercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology (Merge)

 

TOURS:

The Hold Steady/Drive By Truckers Rock & Roll Means Well
Tour

Wilco

My Morning Jacket

Fleet Foxes

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

 

NEW ARTISTS:

Fleet Foxes

She & Him

Jay Reatard

Santogold

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

Wye Oak

Delta Spirit

 

—————————————-

 

STEPHEN DEUSNER

 

ALBUMS:

1.    Drive-By Truckers: Brighter Than
Creation’s Dark (New West)
2.    Fleet Foxes: Sun Giant/Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
3.    Jessica Lea Mayfield: With Blasphemy So Heartfelt
(Polymer)
4.    Cut Copy: In Ghost Colours (Modular)
5.    Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds:
Dig Lazarus Dig!! (Mute)
6.    Lykke Li: Youth Novels (LL Recordings)
7.    Vapnet: Döda Fallet (Hybris)
8.    TV on the Radio: Dear Science (Interscope)
9.    VA: Awake My Soul/Help Me to Sing (Awake Productions)
10.    Calexico: Carried to Dust (Quarterstick/Touch & Go)
11.    T.I.: Paper Trail (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)
12.    Hercules & Love Affair: Hercules & Love Affair
(Mute)
13.    Gaslight Anthem: The ’59 Sound (Sideonedummy)
14.    Erykah Badu: New Amerykah (Motown)
15.    Lambchop: OH (Ohio)
(Merge)
16.    Hold Steady: Stay Positive (Vagrant)
17.    Bonnie “Prince” Billy: Lie Down in the Light
(Thrill Jockey)
18.    Kathleen Edwards: Asking for Flowers (Rounder)
19.    Port O’Brien: All We Could Do Was Sing (self-released)
20.    Be Your Own Pet: Get Awkward (UK edition only) (Ecstatic Peace!)

 

REISSUES:
1.    Otis Redding: Otis Blue (Rhino)
2.    R.E.M.: Murmur (Deluxe Edition)
3.    Replacements: album reissues (Rhino)
4.    Nina Simone: To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story
(RCA/Legacy)
5.    VA: Memphis
70: The City’s Funk and Soul in the Decade after Otis 1968-1977 (Townsend)
6.    Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison (Columbia/Legacy)
7.    Roy Orbison: The Soul of Rock and Roll
(Orbison/Monument/Legacy)
8.    Warren Zevon: Warren Zevon (Collector’s Edition) (Rhino)
9.    Mudhoney: Superfuzz Bigmuff (SubPop)
10.    Elvis Presley: The Complete ’68 Comeback Special (RCA)

NEW ARTISTS:
1.    Jessica Lea Mayfield
2.    Fleet Foxes
3.    Hercules & Love Affair
4.    Lykke Li
5.    Titus Andronicus

TOURS:
1.    Hold Steady/Drive-By Truckers
2.    Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds
3.    Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
4.    Theresa Andersson/Ane Brun/Tobias Fröberg
5.    Port O’Brien/Bodies of Water

ANNOYING:
1.    Katy Perry’s Reality TV show pop song
2.    People bitching about AutoTune
3.    Album delays
4.    Songs about either presidential candidate
5.    Russell Brand

DVDS:
1.    Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp
2.    I Got the Feelin’: James Brown in the ’60

BOOKS:

1.    Amanda Petrusich: It Still Moves: Lost Songs,
Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music (Faber)
2.    Carl Wilson: Celine Dion’s Let Talk About Love (Continuum)

COOLEST:
T.I. and Rihanna turning O-Zone’s “Dragostea Din Tei” into a
life-affirming rap anthem

 

 

GO HERE TO SEE THE REST
OF THE STAFF AND WRITERS PICKS….

 

 

 

REDISCOVERING THE HUNGER Tindersticks

Frontman Stuart
Staples on inspiration and maturation.

 

BY KENNY HERZOG

 

It had been five years since Tindersticks, one of Britain’s
most charismatically moody ensembles, unveiled a full-length of their
theatrically moving melancholy. But finally, The Hungry Saw (CST) came
along earlier this year, providing yet another feast of baroque eloquence. And
while many thought they’d disbanded as the years passed on and frontman Stuart
Staples dabbled in solo ventures, it was merely an imperative time apart. Like
any relationship, the participants needed a break to rediscover the magnetism
that initially drew them to one another. But much has still changed in the 15
years since their self-titled debut. Below, Staples breaks down the motivation
and muses that first sparked Tindersticks’ chemistry, versus the creative fires
that were lit in preparation for The
Hungry Saw
. (The band will be doing some rare tour dates in the U.S. this spring; itinerary follows the interview.)

 

 

***

 

 

What
was the motivation for getting together and making music?

 

Then: “Playing music was our escape from reality. Gradually, making
music became the reality. This was probably one of the hardest things we ever
had to get over, like having something precious slowly stolen from you, with
only yourself to blame.”

 

Now: “In making The Hungry
Saw
, I think we found that feeling of escape again or just appreciated the
sense of freedom, and even magic, that can come from making music.”

 

 

 

Who
were your chief creative muses?

 

Then
as Now:
“Songs come from ideas and feelings
that itch inside and can’t be soothed until they have been realized. Sometimes
it feels as if there are no choices involved.”

 

 

 

Did
you have an idea of the sound or mood you were seeking to craft?

 

Then: “Our first album took us all by surprise. We had some idea,
but not to the depth and power of what we were making. This brought a feeling
of total elation, and to be honest, a feeling I have not experienced since.
Like you are only allowed that feeling once.”

 

Now: “With this album, it was the first time since maybe our
second album that we didn’t have to talk about music or what we wanted to make.
It was all just about getting together with some kind of desire, being open and
seeing where that took us.”

 

 

 

What were
your primary outlets for non-musical recreation?

 

Then: “Our first album was fueled by Holsten Pils, vodka and
eating the hottest curries on the menu.

 

Now: “These days it’s more about wine and cooking for each other
(though the vodka still has its days)… We have always had a laugh. And now we
live in different parts of Europe, so it makes
our time together feel even more precious.”

 

 

 

Was there
a goal in mind beyond the music itself, or was it the means to its own end?

 

Then
as Now:
“I suppose it’s always been about a
sense of progression, about going further into something, and getting closer.
Though when we were young, we would throw ourselves at walls to achieve this.” 

 

 

 

***

 

 

Tindersticks 2009 Tour Dates:

 

 

Feb 5 2009  8:00P

          La Carene, Brest       Brest

Feb 6 2009   9:00P

          L’Olympic, Nantes    Nantes

Feb 7 2009   9:00P

          Krakatoa, Bordeaux Bordeaux

Feb 8 2009   9:00P

          L’Auditori, Barcelona           Barcelona

Feb 9 2009   9:00P

          Teatro Haagen Dazs, Madrid         Madrid

Feb 10 2009 9:00P

          Teatro Victoria Eugenia,
Donostia-San Sebastián   Donostia-San
Sebastián

Feb 13 2009 9:00P

          Coliseum, Lisbon       Lisbon

Feb 16 2009 9:00P

          Teatro Cervantes, Malaga    Malaga

Mar 4 2009   9:00P

          World Cafe Live       Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania

Mar 5 2009   9:00P

          930 Club       Washington DC, Washington
DC

Mar 6 2009   9:00P

          Masonic
Temple, Brooklyn    New
York, New York

Mar 7 2009   9:00P

          Somerville Theatre     Boston,
Massachusetts

Mar 9 2009   9:00P

          La Salla Rossa          Montreal,
Quebec

Mar 10 2009           9:00P

          Opera House, Toronto         Toronto, Ontario

Mar 12 2009           9:00P

          Epiphany Episcopal
Church, Chicago        Chicago, Illinois

 

RADICAL HARMONY John Adams

Why you should care
about the modern composer’s new autobiography.

 

BY CHRISTIAN KIEFER

 

 

Classical music is screwed. At some point in the not so distant
past, we Westerners apparently decided en masse that the door was closed on
classical composition, that instead of fostering new works that extended the
range of our long heritage, we should instead channel the energy of our
musicians into endlessly repeating performances of the old masters. And so we
have the newest, hundredth or thousandth recordings of Bach or Beethoven or
Mozart, with a few sprinklings of more recent Tchaikovsky or Debussy thrown in
for good measure. Beyond that, we enter a kind of no man’s land where our
cultural knowledge falls of short. We might know Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian
Spring,” maybe have heard of his “Billy the Kid,” but the distance from Debussy
and Copland and thence from Copland to the present day tends to be cultural
terra incognita.

 

Classical music listeners are not the only ones to blame
here. Classical composition took a staggeringly huge turn in the mid-20th century, incorporation elements of sound that for preceding generations would
have been anathema. Schoenberg’s serialism, a novel use of a twelve note
sequence, was academically interesting but many audiences today still find it
to be difficult going. It seems that atonality, in all its various guises, was
interesting on paper but, at least to mainstream audiences, it was hardly
interesting listening.

 

This is not to suggest that sound must necessarily reach
mainstream audiences to be successful-if such were the case than the measure of
quality would be the latest disturbingly sexy sixteen year old pop diva-but
rather that classical music managed to lose interest in itself as a developing
genre of music. Times have indeed changed and perhaps there no longer remains a
cultural slot for “classical superstar” in the way that Mozart and Beethoven
and others have occupied such a cultural position. Perhaps the slot was for
“music superstar” all along and so that the aforementioned disturbingly sexy
sixteen year old pop diva is taking up a cultural position that, in a previous
generation, might have been occupied by John Adams.

 

That’s John Adams the composer, not John Adams our second
President. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of him. Even if I tell you that
John Adams is quite possibly the most famous American composer actively working
today, you still shouldn’t feel particularly distressed. You’re still the hipster
that you thought you were before reading this. It’s not you who have failed;
it’s your culture on the whole, a culture that celebrates American Idol
contestants and elevates their recorded output into chart-topping status while
by and large ignoring the latest string quartet, chamber symphony, or opera.

 

So you may not know who John Adams is, but you should and
now there are a couple of good places to start: his recently published
autobiography, Hallelujah Junction:
Composing an American Life
, and an accompanying CD of the same name from
Nonesuch. Taken together, these two works offer a rather sweeping entrée into
Adams lifework, his successes and failures, leaving the reader, and listener,
with a greater appreciation of his role in contemporary music and, one hopes, a
notion of the role that contemporary classical music can have in our culture.

 

To state that Adams’ career has been a successful one would
be something of an understatement. He has premiered works with the biggest
symphonies, has been big news in the arts sections of big newspapers, has
worked with the best musicians, and is signed to a record label (Nonesuch) far
hipper than the stogy old mainstay Deutsche Grammaphon. His upbringing and pedigree
is serious Yankee stuff, including a degree from Harvard, and he acknowledges
receiving stinging criticism that he grew up “privileged.” But Adams’ actual
development as a musician comes less from that initial training but rather from
more left-of-classical-center sources: transcribing jazz for practice,
listening to electronica (Aphex Twin gets a name check in the book), and
pondering what the previous generation had failed to do. “Atonality…rather than
being the Promised Land so confidently predicted by Schoenberg, Boulez, and
Babbitt, proved to be nothing of the kind,” Adams writes, ruminating over his
early decision to move away from the atonality that had been the modus operandi
of the preceding generation. “Could it be…that tonality was indeed a fundamental
organizational principle, and that our brains are, in a sense, hardwired to
seek out and find a musical center of gravity in any complex of pitches?”
Indeed it could be and it is.

 

The fact that Adams went (mostly) “tonal” did not mean a
return to some stodgy old version of composition either. Adams was fascinated
by many of the developments of atonalism, the avant-garde, electronic music,
and minimalism, much of which shows up in his work in a variety of ways. His
first (of several) breakthrough pieces included Shaker Loops (1978), a buzzing, circling honeybee of interlocking
strings, and Harmonium (1981), a
large-scale work for chorus. Taken as a pair, these two works provide the twin
nuggets for much that would come after. Adams
has been particularly enamored of the kind of giant vocalizing that Harmonium centers on: huge syllables
breaking unpredictably with relatively narrow harmonic range. This is a
technique that he would use all the way through the more recent opera, Doctor Atomic, a musical presentation of
the development of the atomic bomb and the various moral repercussions and
reverberations leading up to the first detonation.

 

Adams is successful precisely because he knows his
limitations and his internal sonic landscape. As such he is not a radical
innovator-not in the sense of John Zorn or John Coltrane-but this does not mean
he’s a less important cultural figure. Adams’ innovations are twofold. First,
by adopting “new music” materials-atonality, electronic music, minimalism-and
bringing them into a recognizable, tonal form, Adams helps to bridge the gap
between complex and difficult modern material and the more familiar (to
contemporary audiences) classical works. Second, he has breathed new life into
forms that were all but dead to contemporary composers-most importantly the
opera.

 

Of course, there have been plenty of missteps along the way,
or at least that’s what our critics would say. Take for example, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw
the Sky
, a piece Adams describes as a “multivectored love story, an
‘earthquake/romance,’ situated in the ethnic bouillabaisse of urban Los Angeles.” The piece
centers on inner-city life and its various intersections-black, white,
Hispanic, hetero- and homosexual-and indeed it is in grappling with these
intersections that Adams found himself on the wrong side of the critical fence.
“The more conservative critics saw the show as an affront to moral decency, an
example of the typically liberal romanticization of criminals and scofflaws,” Adams writes in Hallelujah
Junction
. I Was Looking at the
Ceiling…
is indeed sometimes difficult to intellectualize when one ponders
Adams’ Yankee upbringing, his life of privilege, the fact that he did not grow
up Hispanic in East Los Angeles, etc. and perhaps this was more obvious and
onerous when the staged version was in full swing. It is worth noting that I Was Looking at the Ceiling… is
represented on the recent Hallelujah
Junction
CD, but only in a single four minute except, perhaps an acknowledgement
on Adams’ part that it was something of a failed experiment.

 

It’s a shame, because in many ways the work that made up I Was Looking at the Ceiling… is a great
entrée point into Adams’ works, particularly
for a listener more heavily schooled in rock and pop music than contemporary
classical. This is Adams grappling with song form, trying to boil down the
force and direction of his music into four, and five, and six minute pieces.
Sometimes he is successful in doing so and sometimes it is less effective, but
as a whole I Was Looking at the Ceiling… does
have a kind of shine to it, particularly in its well-integrated incorporation
of minimalistic analog synth pulses and more traditionally “classical”
instrumentation.

 

The potential criticism that Adams is adopting a kind of
liberal multicultural perspective is one that has increasingly dogged him in
recent years, and it is instructive to hear the composer’s own words on this
issue. “Multiculturalism was the easiest of knee-jerk accusations to hurl at an
artist who revealed (or reveled in) influences outside his or her supposedly
prescribed social setting,” Adams writes. “Of course I am cognizant of how, in
the hands of an aggressive ‘dominant culture’ like ours, any indigenous art for
risks dilution, distortion, or even possible annihilation.” Adam goes on to
claim, rightfully so, that “appropriation is in fact the norm among societies.”

 

 

“Since
earliest recorded time one culture has intermingled its art with that of
another, and that intermingling by its very nature must be subject to
misapprehension, misappropriation, even misuse. Nevertheless,
cross-fertilization more often than not is a willing, even enthusiastic act of
mutual sharing. Like the strengthening of a species through genetic variety, a
crossbreeding off artistic traditions, creatively engaged, can produce robust
new genres.”

 

 

The easiest response is that Adams has not produced any
“robust new genres,” but such a response would be missing the point. The point,
such as it is, is to critique the art rather than the writer and that centering
on Adams’ particular pedigree as part of some
kind of artistic hegemony is beside that point. As Adams’
notes, “Some of the most shockingly original leaps in stylistic evolution have
come about when a profoundly original artist like a Debussy or a Picasso or a
Stravinsky raids an alien culture for his own selfish ends.” In the end, one
can’t help but applaud Adams’ defense of the ideal of multiculturalism, a defense
that can equally apply to his own work as it can to the work of Philip Glass,
The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, or Eminem, all of whom have crossed
cultural and/or ethnic borders in the creation of art.

 

But Adams is better known as a revitalizer than as a
plunderer of “world music.” This is particularly true of his work in opera, a
form he has returned to repeatedly. The mainstream press, if it has ever cared
much for him, turned its collective eyes in a big way to his Nixon in China, an opera that more or
less revitalized the genre and gave it a distinctly American stamp.

 

Nixon in China refers often to Adams’ early interest in
minimalism as a genre and the fact that the only other post-Copland opera of
note-Phillip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach-adheres
strongly to minimalism speaks volumes about the role of that particular genre
as a distinctly American form. Nixon in
China
is, perhaps by dint of its use of minimalism, significantly more
driving than his later Doctor Atomic and feels more musically effective. As operas generally are, it’s still
histrionic stuff but then again no one really expects an opera to be subtle.
It’s all Sturm und Drang and Adams does not
disappoint. One wonders why he finds it necessary to utilize the histrionic
vocal style that makes opera such a difficult listening experience but so it
goes. Celine Dion and her ilk have made all operatic voices sound horrible to
my ears, which proves more about me than it does about Adams (or Dion for that
matter).

 

Having made that admission, I must also admit that I find
Adams’ most recent opera, Doctor Atomic, to be difficult going. The recent DVD release confirms that Adams’ long-time
collaborator, director Peter Sellers, has the subtlety of a battering ram, with
various dancers prancing through scenes at random and histrionic staging that
would even impress Oliver Stone. Adams’ use of dialogue here is strangely
non-musical, an interesting approach, perhaps, but one that ultimately sounds a
bit too much like a parody of the opera as a genre. It does not take much to
imagine the characters of South Park performing such passages. Granted: It’s an opera about the night before the
first test of the atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert and it is, therefore,
weighty material; all the more reason not to knock the listener over the head
with it. 

 

In the end, though, Adams’ failures are also his successes. Doctor Atomic is a different animal than
Nixon in China. Each uses different
textual material and different musical approaches and while there are certainly
plenty of similarities, in the end they are different Adamses. There are issues
that return again and again–the chant-like syllabic work of his big choruses,
the size and scope of his biggest pieces, his interest in analog
synthesizers-but Adams is also extending his range and function.

 

Such is the case with his staggeringly beautiful 2002 piece On the Transmigration of Souls, Adams writes a slowly unfurling tribute to the events of
9/11, a kind of requiem that rises slowly from pulses and the repeated names of
the dead and missing. Here is one of Adams’ greatest triumphs, indeed one of
the great triumphs of contemporary orchestral music, a piece of dark and
stirring radiance. Here the syllabic pulses that are standard fare in most of
Adams’ large-scale works are wrapped into the thrum of harp and the keen of
strings, backgrounded against calm speaking voices that continue their
repetition of names. When it finally does reach its crescendo the effect is
like a hammer directly to the listener’s heart. My god, this is what music can
do.

 

“On a dark day I will become nearly overwhelmed at how
little I have mastered in my life,” Adams writes toward the end of his book.
“The ‘next’ piece ought to be the ‘best piece’…But this is never the case.” It
is a fascinating confession and a heartbreaking one. Indeed, if there is one
important thing we learn from Hallelujah
Junction
it is Adams’ is an artist who is successful even in his failures
and by the end of the book one cannot help but root for him as he works on his
next piece, struggles with the latest batch of criticism, or ponders the next
libretto. In the final summation, what the critics say-this one included-are
less relevant than the sound itself: a churning mass of voices and instruments
that stake a serious claim on potential role of classical music in today’s America. It is
certainly worth grappling with.

 

This piece is subtitled “Why You Should Care About Composer
John Adams’ New Autobiography.” I think I’ve answered that query in the text
above, but in case I haven’t been clear enough let me state my case more
bluntly here. John Adams is an important composer: important in the way that
Wagner and Stravinsky and Copland are important. Hallelujah Junction gives us insight into his mind, his heart, and
his pen and it is insight that is valuable, not only as a way to see into the
mind of a great artist but also as a way to see into the mind, the heart, and
the pen of ourselves as Americans and hence as citizens of the world. A heady
claim? Perhaps, but Adams does occupy that role. His music speaks for us all
and even if we do not agree with what it says or how it says it, the sonic
landscape is worth traveling through. There are deserts there, and mountains,
and occasional cities, and it’s called America.

 

Classic music may be screwed, but John Adams has gone a good
way toward repairing that, giving audiences a reason to love or hate classical
music again, to attend a premiere of a new work no one has ever heard before, a
work by a man who is writing about the here and now, rather than the far away
and long dead. We don’t have to like it, but we should at least be paying
attention.

 

 

[Photos Credit: Margaretta Mitchell]

 

TALES OF THE NEW FRONTIER Frontier Ruckus

Michigan band heads off for
the wild, wild West.

 

BY
BRIAN STAKER

 

Location,
location, location. It’s the key to success in real estate, but also to the new
indie acoustic bands that are rooted to the mythology of a particular region.
Orion, Michigan’s Frontier Ruckus has
assembled a story of life in the Great Lakes
region that seems anachronistic at first, but resonates as a both a place out
of time and something that could exist anywhere.

 

Perhaps
it has something to do with singer/songwriter Matthew Milia’s graduate degree
in creative writing. What is they say about writers who try to start rock
bands? Stephen King and Keanu Reeves notwithstanding. In Milia’s case it
informs the songs on the group’s first full-length Orion Songbook (Quite
Scientific) with a narrative energy of a space that exists beyond the purely
academic, because you can actually recognize the inhabitants.

 

Like
Ogden Nash’s Spoon River Anthology and the Yoknapatawpha County of William
Faulkner, the Orion, (pronounced ‘O’-reeon’) Michigan of Frontier Ruckus seems
infused with the kind of drama or ‘ruckus’ that seems quaint under the
magnifying glass of the TV screen of the immediate, but profound in the
rear-view mirror of the past, forever receding but always seemingly as close as
the last gas station.

 

Growing
up listening to Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, meeting banjo player
David  Jones in high school introduced
him to bluegrass and later, Neutral Milk Hotel. Then a couple of years ago the
rest of the personnel coalesced: Zachary Nichols on saw and trumpet,
percussionist Ryan Etzcorn, and singer Anna Burch.

 

The
album is drawing comparisons as wide as Stephen Foster and Neutral Milk Hotel
for that band’s anachronistic surrealism, but Milia says “that’s a misconception,
because of the ‘roots’ sound; it’s really modern.” The rurally-instrumented
sound, with banjo, trumpet, harmonica, pedal steel and even singing saw, is
more a representation of searching for the past than the past itself. “The
album is about different types of connection, but the one thing you can’t
connect to is the past,” Milia notes. These attempts are very personal, but you
can relate to the attempts, and that makes the music convincing.

 

Orion,
Michigan is a town on the environs of Detroit, but musically
it’s countries away from the urban ‘garage rock’ of bands like the Stooges and
the White Stripes. “It’s north of Detroit, and
North, whether in Michigan or upstate New York, where my dad’s
family is from, represents escape,” Milias explains. “A house is a container of
memories, and Detroit
is the core, starting point of a container that broke.”

 

The
song cycle is a gradual change between Detroit
and points outward, and disintegrates into something more natural, bucolic. “Detroit represents the
crippled backbone,” he feels. “There’s so much beauty but it’s dilapidated as
hell. The attempts to revitalize make it even stranger; there are new
developments next to slums and run-down areas. The juxtaposition is actually
pretty.” His mother had told him of a Detroit
so pristine you could eat off the streets, and in the song “Rosemont,” he makes
the remarkable exclamation “this road is made of flesh,” brutal yet a brilliant
metaphor for the travels memory takes.

 

“The
imagery is the most important part to me; it’s a way of dealing with the
overwhelming abundance of memory,” he explains. “Songwriting is a way of
organizing amorphous feelings into tangible reality. Just living there all my
life there’s so much, it’s almost a burden. My girlfriend was from Bloomfield, which I was
just north of, and it’s another metaphor for the attraction of magnetic north.”

 

“Adirondack
Amish Holler” shows that the outward migration has proceeded beyond Michigan or indeed any
geographical boundaries to the cartographical chart of memory; the map that’s
imbedded in the mind. Besides the lyrical impact of his visual storytelling,
there’s a certain degree of pain: “The latter days are so much harder than you
could have ever known,” he sings in “Latter Days.” “It’s about first love, lost
and thrown away. It’s a past promise you can never return to.”

 

Milia
was always enamored of the Wild West in school. “It defined the end to things,”
he recalls. “One step into the wild and you were away from the grid. It defined
the boundary of experience; what was known.” Their live show contains all the
energy of the attempts to break free from the bonds of that frontier and then
reconnect with the memory.  They are
booking their first national tour for next year.

 

“It’s
an hour long songbook; I had to get them over with,” he relates. “It’s as much
writing songs as it is about dealing with memory. I had to release it. The next
album will focus on a new mythology. As a writer, the only thing I can do is
deal with one mythology at a time.”

 

 

 

BEST OF 2008: Blurt's Top 20 & More

Our toppermost of the
poppermost. Number One Album & Best New Artist: Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Complete Top 50 in December digi-mag.

 

BY THE EDITORS

 

Simply put, we thought 2008 was an amazing year for music – new, reissued, live, on film and in books
– and we hope our best-of picks reflect just what a stellar year it was. The
BLURT crew put our heads together, picked the brains of our contributing
writers, and listened to the comments of our readers and arrived at, not so
much a concrete consensus (that would be impossible, given the subjective
nature of list-making), but certainly a representative overview of the past
twelve months.

 

From the Top 20 album picks and best new artists to most
outstanding concert tours and, er, obsessions of the male-female variety, we
hereby present our Best of 2008. And to see the complete Top 50 Albums list
along with more pithy assessments, sleeve artwork and sexysassycool photos,
check out the brand new December issue of the BLURT digital magazine. Just
click on the magazine image (the one with the pic of Jessica Lea Mayfield) on
the right-hand side of the homepage and start browsing the pages.

 

And be watching this space for even more Best Of ’08 when we
publish the year-end lists of our editorial staff and our writers…

 

 

***

 

1) Jessica Lea
Mayfield

With Blasphemy So Heartfelt (Polymer Sounds)

“I always look at things from a dark point of view,”
Jessica Lea Mayfield advises BLURT. “I’m an upbeat person when you meet me, but
for some reason I cannot write a happy song.” Indeed, the Ohio native’s
long-playing debut is pitch-dark and emotionally-saturated, pulling from rock,
indie and folk music to create some mutant blend of alt-Americana. It’s her
singular vision, piercing like a southern gothic author, and haunting voice – a
slurrysexycool cross between Jolie Holland, Edie Brickell and PJ Harvey, if you
can dig it – that captivated the BLURT staff upon the album’s release (on
producer/Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach’s Polymer label) in September. And
as we lived with the album, the realization grew that we were witnessing the
flowering of a major artist; so much so, that in addition to picking With Blasphemy So Heartfelt our top
album of 2008, Mayfield must surely be our Best New Artist, too. That’s our own
imprimatur, certainly, but when you consider some of the musicians she edged
out – among them, Lykke Li, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and She & Him – it’s
nothing less than an article of faith, too. Don’t ever give up that darkness,
Jessica. It becomes you.

 

 

2) Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

WE SAID: “Folksy at its core, but unwilling to pledge
allegiance to either the freak-folk movement or the army of bearded porch-pop
players, For Emma is a unique piece
of elegiac elegance.”

 

3) Shearwater

Rook (Matador)

WE SAID: “The album heralds [Jonathan] Meiburg’s leap from
gifted song stylist to master conductor and arranger- he’s been building
towards this moment.”

 

4) Calexico

Carried to Dust (Touch & Go)

WE SAID: “Over the course of their career Joey Burns and
John Convertino have created a readily identifiable blend of mariachi,
spaghetti western, ambling country and desert blues, and Carried to Dust is another version of its perfection.”

 

5) Future Clouds
& Radar

Peoria (Star Apple Kingdom)

WE SAID: “Peoria does have a sonic immediacy, but like
its predecessor it’s also an ambitious, complex work that demands multiple
listening sessions for its many subtleties and nuances to reveal themselves.”

 

6) Alejandro Escovedo

Real Animal (Back Porch)

WE SAID: “Real Animal brings together Escovedo’s roots in punk (“Chelsea”), country (“People”),
chamber pop (“Sister Lost Soul”), and Stonesy blues-rock (“Smoke” and “Real
Animal”) in a cohesive musical and lyrical narrative tracing the course of Escovedo’s
thirty-year-long career.”

 

7) Lykke Li

Youth Novels (LL Recordings)

WE SAID: “22-year-old Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson ain’t your
average Swedish pop/dance star… she crafts fascinating musical vehicles for
her lithe voice and swelling choruses.”

 

8) Joseph Arthur
& the Lonely Astronauts

Temporary People (Lonely Astronaut)

WE SAID: “A widescreen collection of mini-symphonies as
memorable as they come. It’s a career-capper in every sense of the word, an
album that should permanently install Arthur in the minds of the public.”

 

9) Santogold

Santogold (Downtown)

WE SAID: “Pan-cultural, like M.I.A., but deliciously sautéed
in the melting pot of the U.S.A. Dub, poppy New Wave, electro/hip-hop and more
swirl around her lusciously chirpy vocals. You can dance your ass off to her,
too.”

 

10) Thalia Zedek

Liars and Prayers (Thrill Jockey)

WE SAID: “And that voice! The former Come frontwoman sounds
like a more gravelly version of Patti Smith on a few of these songs, and her
lyrical work, laced with subtle political commentary, results in some
fascinating takes on everyday relations.”

 

11) James McMurtry

Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)

WE SAID: “If you’ve heard ‘God Bless America,’ the bitter,
biting indictment of our political and corporate leaders first released in
2007, then all you really need to know about Just Us Kids is that it’s not even the best song on the album,
which is the best of McMurtry’s career.”

 

12) Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

WE SAID: “Picture My Morning Jacket’s Jim James sitting
around a campfire with Crosby, Stills and Nash and you’ll get the idea. Fleet
Foxes can be beautifully intimate (‘White Winter Hymnal’) or create a sound
that seems as wide and open as the Plains (‘Ragged Wood’).”

 

13) The Black Keys

Attack and Release (Nonesuch)

WE SAID: “From the get-go, there’s a lot to assimilate. It’s
not like they got a bassist or anything, but the Black Keys entering a studio
to record their fifth long player is a big change. The end result is the Keys’
most expansive record. Crank it up.”

 

14) The Gutter Twins

Saturnalia (Sub Pop)

WE SAID: “For all its sludgy slow electric pianos and
“Ohio”-like guitar squeak, Lanegan sounds like he’s having the time of his
life. That’s what hanging around your best pal (Dulli) will do for you.”

 

15) Lucinda Williams

Little Honey (Lost Highway)

WE SAID: “From the album’s opening track, the surging,
angular, almost punk-feeling riff-rocker “Real Love”; through several blues
compositions, country-honker “Well Well Well” and the swampy,  slide/ harp-fueled “Heavy Blues;” Little
Honey never falters.”

 

16) Dead Confederate

Wrecking Ball (Razor & Tie)

WE SAID: “Dead Confederate retain hints of Southern rock,
but where that genre can be predictable this cranks a left turn and crashes
into Nirvana-stained grunge and takes it to blurry new terrain where everyone’s
eyes are dilated and dark as wet pavement.”

 

17) Cold War Kids

Loyalty to Loyalty (Downtown)

WE SAID: “Cut to the chase: Loyalty to Loyalty is a scary fucking record, an indie rock version
of the Rolling Stones at their darkest, a whole album as harrowing as “Midnight
Rambler” or “Gimme Shelter… it haunts your dreams.”

 

18) Dr. Dog

Fate (Park the Van)

WE SAID: “It’s how they wear their inspirations on their
sleeve that makes them more than just the sum of some really cool record
collections. That, and the way they’ve filtered damn near everything that
wasn’t nailed down through their own distinct approach.”

 

19) Lil Wayne

Tha Carter III (Cash Money)

WE SAID: “The long-awaited album has finally arrived, and feel
free to rejoice: it was worth the wait. Don’t let the ‘Lollipop’ fool you.
There’s more to Lil Wayne than just candy-as-sex (see: Marcy Playground) puns.
In fact, there may be enough here to name him the new best rapper alive.”

 

 

20) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Dig!! Lazarus Dig!! (Mute)

WE SAID: Dig’s sneering, bleary-eyed tracks have a bold
potency to go with their fuzz-tone organ’s pop-psychedelic fizzle and frying
guitars. It’s positively cum-filled.”

 

 

***

 

BEST OF THE REST

 

 

BEST NEW ARTIST:

1) Jessica Lea Mayfield

 

Lykke Li

Bon Iver

Fleet Foxes

She & Him

 

 

 

BEST MUSIC
FILMS/DOCUMENTARIES:

1) Lou Reed Berlin,
dir. by Julian Schnabel  (Genius)

 

Control (Ian Curtis/Joy Division), dir. by Anton Corbijn
(The Weinstein Company)

Arthur Russell – Wild Combination, dir. by Matt Wolf
(Plexifilm)

Silver Jews – Silver Jew (Drag City)

Flaming Lips – Christmas On Mars (Warner Bros.)

 

 

BEST
REISSUE/ARCHIVAL:

1) Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean
Blue (Caribou/Legacy)

 

Rodriguez – Cold Fact (Light In The Attic)

Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc)

Replacements – catalog reissues (Rhino)

The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium (Epic/Legacy)

 

 

BEST BOOK:

1) Mike Edison – I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales
of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues,
American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World
(Faber & Faber)

 

Alex Ross – The Rest
Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
(Picador)

Danny Goldberg – Bumping
Into Geniuses: My Life Inside The Rock And Roll
Business (Gotham Books)

Thurston Moore and Byron Coley – No Wave Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980. (Harry Abrams Publishing)

Juliana Hatfield – When I Grow Up (Wiley)

 

 

BIGGEST OBSESSIONS:

 

BEEFCAKE:

 

Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal)

Jay Reatard

Will Scheff (Okkervil
River)

Lil Wayne

Devendra Banhart

 

CHEESECAKE:

 

Lykke Li

Juliette Commagere

Lenka

Kaki King

Santogold

Zooey Deschanel

 

 

BEST LIVE SHOW:

1) Of Montreal

 

Avett Brothers

Alejandro Escovedo

My Morning Jacket

Sun City Girls

 

 

BEST TOUR:

1) Hold Steady + Drive-By Truckers

 

Radiohead

Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

 

 

COOLEST WHATEVER:

 

Finally! Democracy! (Obama gets elected)

Vinyl’s stubborn refusal to die

NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concerts

The “Wassup 2008” YouTube video

Radiohead’s webcasts

 

 

MOST ANNOYING
WHATEVER:

 

The death of print music magazines

Download-only tracks not available on disc

Kanye West

Camel and Rolling
Stone
‘s “Indie Rock Universe”

The overuse – use, actually – of auto-tune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OH, CANADA! M for Montreal Music Festival

For three days and
nights in Montreal,
our neighbors to the north were alive with the sound of… rock ‘n’ roll!

 

BY APRIL S. ENGRAM

 

The creators of M for Montreal,
Sebastien Nasra (founder of Avalanche Productions) and Martin Elbourne
(organizer of Glastonbury Festival), have it all figured out. Together these experienced
professionals of the music industry have created a festival with the musician
in mind. What an idea, right?

 

The beauty, and the purpose of M4M – which ran November
20-22 – is the fact that the event is orchestrated so that no act goes unseen.
With alternating sets, M4M is a whirlwind festival of 21 bands in the course of
three days. Though the number 21 may not sound impressive in comparison to other
festivals that boast performances in the hundreds, think about this for one
moment. Ticket buyers are assured the opportunity of seeing all 21 acts in a
mere 72 hours… that’s a mighty fine proposition. The majority of the bands
included in this third edition of “M” were excellent and busting at the seams
to infiltrate our American airwaves. We south of the border are missing out on
some unbelievable music!

 

[For live images of
many of the bands discussed here, check out our photo gallery HERE. Pictured
above:
Lioness/photo credit Sophie
Samson
.]

 

***

 

Highlights of Day 1
(In Order of Awesomeness…)

 

 

Duchess Says

My lord! What a way to end a night. Duchess Says brought to
the stage their loud, chaotic, dance electro-punk rock noise with a female lead
singer who is quite possibly demonically possessed! This band could have closed
the entire festival in my humble opinion. Though this Montreal group was new to my ears, the
ecstatic crowd was obviously salivating for the quartet to take the stage as
they were ready for the pandemonium to begin. Duchess Says’ hard driving music
got the audience moshing and they could not stand still for one moment. The
band – Philippe Clément, Ismaël Tremblay, and Simon Besre – calmly played on as
lead singer Annie C-the C is short for Claude-went ballistic.

Singing in both French and English, after just one song Annie
C kicked off her boots, ripped her stockings off of her feet so they rested at
her ankles, grabbed the mic and invited audience members to jump on stage. One
young man did and at Annie C’s instruction, crowd-surfed back into the
audience. But her interactions with the audience did not stop there as she
jumped into the crowd and was carried back to the stage. Though all sets ran
approximately thirty minutes, Duchess clearly went over this marker as Annie C was
politely told that her band was leaving. She looked around, shrugged her
shoulders and with a coy smile waved goodbye to the audience who was still
cheering and shouting. Duchess Says’ set was an adrenaline charging
performance: I don’t think I blinked for the forty plus minutes they were on
stage.

 

 

The National Parcs

The first dose of rap in the festival, this Montreal trio put together the most visually
stunning performance of the event. After witnessing The National Parcs live I
was hooked upon their artistic, “outside the box” techniques they liberally
applied to what’s increasingly become a mundane genre. What makes National
Parcs unique is how vocalists Vincent Letellier and Chimwemwe Miller and
effects/videographer Ian Cameron gathered sounds to create their debut release Timbervision.

 

The trio went out of the studio and recorded noises around
them. From breaking logs, banging rocks to blowing into bottles and drumming on
a canoe, every sound became a loop. While they gathered these sounds they
visually recorded their actions and these images became National Parcs’ music
videos. And these videos were projected in sync with the music as they
performed; my eyes didn’t know where to rest. For their last song, “Clickety
Clack,” Miller put on a skeleton mask while Letellier banged on a rather large
bone (hopefully it was merely plaster). Aside from my almost accidental loss of
an eye due to flying cartilage, National Parcs did put on a compelling show.

 

 

Lioness

Part of the T for Toronto
elite, Lioness’ sonic influences prepared us for Duchess. Their sound, quite reminiscent
of The Gossip, as highly infectious and lead singer Vanessa Fischer’s voice was
simply dynamic. Her sultry vocals brought soul to the music while her skin
tight, black leotard and gold high heels brought the guys closer to the stage.
Drummer Jeff Scheven and bassist Ronnie Morris provided the dark, brooding and
rhythmic sounds for Lioness. The lighting fit the mood of the music as the
stage remained darkened.

 

Fischer’s strong voice was a delightful surprise and made
the songs come alive as she strutted about the stage and wailed her heart out.
The M for Montrealers loved Lioness’ set as they happily cheered and applauded
the band on. Fischer thanked the crowd for their warm reception and announced
they had time for one more song. They closed their set with “What You Do (Will
Come Back To You)” and bid the audience goodnight.

 

 

 

Highlights of Day 2
(In Order of Awesomeness…)

 

 

Beast

Day two was obviously “dance-your-ass-off” night as many of
the acts’ core sound was electronic. And though Beast, Betty Bonifassi and
Jean-Phi Goncalves, did not close the evening, they should have as they sounded
the most experienced and received the warmest reception from the audience. This
trip-hop duo’s sound is not radically different from other bands in the same
genre, but what makes Beast surpass others is lead singer’s Bonifassi’s voice
and their sometimes dark sound.

 

As she calmly strutted to the mic and acknowledged the
audience, one would not have guessed that such a strong voice would emerge. Possessing
a coarsely soulful, jazzy, and melodic voice Bonifassi sang, rapped and effortlessly
belted out the tunes from their recently released self titled debut album. The
audience loved it! Songs like “Ashtray” stood out for their brooding, James
Bond-esque sounds.

 

 

Winter Gloves

Their sound was a mixture of pop, dance and punk; imagine a
“poppier” version of Bloc Party sans British accent. A fun, upbeat sound,
matched with lead singer Charles F’s soft,
melancholy vocals, did indeed get the crowd moving. When their set was almost
over, Charles looked to the audience and said, “We have some free CDs for you.”
He and the band handed them out to the eager crowd who quickly pushed their way
to the front of the stage hands outstretched. Once back at their stations, Winter
Gloves finished their set.

 

 

Woodhands

A more electronics and effects-laden group, this duo only
got to play three songs in their 30 minute set as each song lasted for quite
some time. Lead singer Dan Werb looked quite nerdy in appearance. Thick, black
rimmed glasses and a keytar assisted in completing this package; however, once
he approached the mic and shouted, “You ready for this shit,” all misgivings
dissipated. With just Werb and drummer Paul Banwatt on stage, Woodhands had a
grand sonic and visual show in store for everyone.

 

As Werb shouted and sang into the mic a laser show
commenced. He could barely stand still as he danced, worked the keytar and
effects and occasionally returned to the mic. While the duration of each song
performed-“I Can’t See Straight,” “I Wasn’t Made for Fighting,” and
“Dancer”-only lasts around four minutes, Woodhands obviously remixed their
sounds and made each track twice as long. Very much in the category of uptempo,
hot n’ sweaty, trance music, Woodhands got everyone dancing.

 

 

 

Highlights of Day 3
(In Order of Awesomeness…)

 

 

Gatineau

Who would’ve known that my favorite performances of the
evening would be two rap acts who shelled out quick witted French lyrics that I
could not comprehend. But then again, I think their naughty gestures spoke for
themselves. Gatineau
came equipped with two entertaining front men, a bassist and a gorilla-mask
wearing drummer. And they also added another layer to their sound as one
vocalist, Domhamelll, rapped into a telephone and played an autoharp. The phone resulted in a sound
suggestive of one talking into an old vocoder from 100 miles away. Séba, the other vocalist, could not
stand still as he bounced across the stage in an anorak and jumped down to join
the audience at one point. He eventually tossed the hot coat aside and bared a
tight Backstreet Boys t-shirt.

 

One female in the front row caught Domhamelll’s eye. He
handed her the phone and she enthusiastically rapped along with the guys for
the second half of a song. But where does the naughtiness come in? Well, there
was the moment when Séba caressed and “embraced” his mic stand
(the mic would have blushed if it could have). Later, Séba caressed his band
mate; but the tongue in cheek antics did not stop here as Radio Radio topped
this…

Radio Radio

Where Gatineau
had two vocalists, Radio Radio had four. All members of this Montreal group shared vocal duties. Two
remained in front of the stage with their mics while the remaining members of
Radio spun discs and worked the effects. Radio lovers were obviously in the
house as audience members rapped along with the band and threw their hands in
the air when the lyrics dictated.

 

A more playful sound than Gatineau, Radio’s mischievousness
reverberated not only through their words but body language. One musician equipped
with white plastic framed glasses and a cap was the most animated as he
approached the crowd, lifted his shirt to show off his chest, turned and shook
his booty at us and covered every inch of the stage. During one song all
members were in front of the stage and they suddenly turned their attention to
a speaker. Well, our beloved front man with the shades started “making love” to
the amp while the others pointed and rapped. I wonder what they were discussing
at this point of the song.

 

One fan later shared that she appreciated Radio for their
smart lyrics. I confessed my ignorance of the French language but mentioned
that I thought I picked up on enough through their gestures.

 

“Yeah,” she laughed, “they’re pretty nasty!”

 

 

 

GHOSTS OF CIVIL DEAD Dead Confederate

Georgia rockers are a good kind of throwback.

 

BY ANDY TENNILLE

 

There’s something primal and frightening about Dead
Confederate that’s been lost in American popular music in the 21st Century. It dates back to Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and the darkest moments of Crazy
Horse and runs completely antithetical to the hip-hop poseurs, talentless
celebritards and saccharine fluff that dominate today’s radio dial – because
it’s real. It’s sweaty, scary and probably smells like shit. But that’s because
it’s ridden 10 hours in a battered 1984 Econoline van from Houston fueled on
truck-stop food and little sleep and just wants to get back onstage and rock.
Or in the case of Wrecking Ball, the
Athens, Georgia quartet’s new album on TAO/Razor & Tie, holing up in a
single hotel room in Austin, Texas together for a month to record their
full-length debut.

 

“It was pretty tight quarters, so we really didn’t want to
spend a lot of time there,” says frontman Hardy Morris. “Our producer, Mike
McCarthy, had rented this little shack that was once used by Trail of Dead for
practice space. We locked ourselves down in that old studio and just played.”

 

The ten tracks on Wrecking
Ball
build on the riveting intensity of the band’s five-song EP released
last year and are brought to a obsidian shine with the help of McCarthy, longtime
producer to Spoon and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead as well as the
man at the helm for Patty Griffin’s 2007 release, Children Running Through.

 

 “Mike’s got a lot of
patience because he’s nitpicky about the sounds he wants. He’ll tune the drums
between every take if he needs to,” says bassist and co-songwriter Brantley
Senn. “His process is really focused on getting the right tones for the song.
Most of the recording situations we’ve been involved in the past have been just
set up and play, but Mike really pushed us to focus on the elements of each
song, and I think we all learned a lot about the patience involved in the art
of recording.”

 

McCarthy’s meticulous ear and commitment to vintage
recording equipment (“He didn’t have a piece of gear in there built after 1972,
pretty much,” Senn reports) gels well with the primitive tendencies of Dead
Confederate on Wrecking Ball, a
confident return to an era in music when black lights were en vogue and vinyl
gatefolds were used to sort seeds and stems.

 

“That was important to us ‘cause we’re all vinyl listeners,
including Mike,” Senn says. “He looked over at me one day while we were in the
studio in the middle of making the record and said, ‘This thing is coming out
on vinyl, isn’t it?’ I told him I thought it was, and he was like, ‘It better
be! We’re not gonna finish this album unless they tell you it’s coming out on
vinyl.’ I called the next day to make sure. We’re all excited to drop the
needle on our own record. It’s gonna be huge. We’ve been wanting that our whole
lives.”

 

 

[Photo Credit: Skylar Reeves]

 

 

SOUNDING THE ALARM The Sea and Cake

Two music critics, two wildly diverging opinions – let’s do this!

 

BY DAVID GREENBERGER &
ZACHARY HERRMANN

 

At BLURT we understand that in
regards to music, all opinions are subjective. Certainly we can pretend to
divine the nuances of talent, inspiration and expression, but with the
exception of some of the basics – like, are the lyrics clear or incoherent; is
that E chord in the right place or should it actually be a B-flat, etc. – at
the end of the day, no one can really judge what’s a “good” record and a “bad”
record other than the listener.

 

Case in point: Chicago’s The Sea and Cake, who recently
issued their latest album Car Alarm on the esteemed Thrill Jockey label. Through a stroke of editorial serendipity
(okay, it was actually a screw-up of scheduling), we received not one but two
reviews of the record, and since those reviews represent dueling polarities, we
think it’s only fair and right that you, gentle readers, have an opportunity to
read both. On the one hand, a glowing “9” (out of ten stars) from ace scribe
David Greenberger; on the other, a niggling “5” from the unflappable Zach
Herrmann; somewhere in the middle, we suspect, resides an ultimate truth.
Luckily for the band, however, consumers don’t care about “ultimate truths.”
They just wanna know if it rocks. – The
Editors

 

 

***

 

 

 

The Sea and Cake

 

Car Alarm

 

(Thrill Jockey)

 

www.thrilljockey.com

 

9 stars

 

After a four year break in recordings,
the Sea and Cake’s eighth album comes on the heels of last year’s robust Everybody, again showcasing what a
supple and gently powerful ensemble they are.

 

With Sam Prekop’s quiet vocals
pushed to the fore, attention is at first diverted from the powerful engine
that’s flying him down the road. The roiling exuberance of the band’s rhythmic
drive is subtly disguised, as if camouflaged. Like a painting that refuses to
offer a narrative, their music is rife with alluring riddles and questions. The
rewards they offer are unique to each listener’s response.

 

Full of human pulsing, the Sea
and Cake show that measured, considered approaches to creating songs can be as
emotionally rich as overtly demonstrative avenues – or even more. Bottom line:
this is a potent band at their finest.

 

Standout Tracks: “On A Letter,” “Window Sills” DAVID GREENBERGER

 

 

***

 

 

The Sea and Cake

 

Car Alarm

 

(Thrill Jockey)

 

www.thrilljockey.com 

 

5 stars

 

There’s a certain point where musical consistency and
reliability begets stagnancy. By album number eight, the overbearingly mild Car Alarm, The Sea and Cake has become
like clockwork. Every arrangement is smooth, like a planned daydream on an
office elevator ride – the instrumentation familiar and right on the money. The
imagination is barely there, dulled by years of repetition.

 

 

Always a far less interesting endeavor than drummer John
McEntire’s Tortoise, The Sea and Cake has long since abandoned the lo-fi edge
of its earlier work (namely Nassau).
“Aerial” opens with everything in sharp focus, Sam Prekop’s untainted, breathy
vocals up front and center. 

 

 

The band (thankfully) goes a little off course with Prekop’s
guitar work on “New Schools”, but even the spacey, fuzzed-out solos sound a bit
too sterile to really shake things up. Kicking out the MOR-jams like a tortoise
on valium wears thin pretty quickly, and so we get two throwaway ambient New
Age-y instrumentals (“CMS Sequence”, “Mirrors”) tossed in the mix, presumably
to break up the pace or at least cue the listener into breaks between similar
songs. 

 

 

Oddly enough, the band chose the latter track to end the
album, a whimpering end to a series of barely distinguishable whispers. Even if
you have bought into the dubious claims of The Sea and Cake as a genre-bending
factory, pumping out one brilliant work after another, Car Alarm sticks out as the group’s biggest snoozer to date.

 

 

Taken on a track by track basis, there’s nothing
particularly awful on album. But from one step back, the whole affair is just
way too easy to ignore. 

 

 

Standout Tracks: Who can tell ’em apart?!? ZACHARY HERRMANN

 

 

 

 

ALBUM INCOMING: Trail of Dead

Texas band is ready to “fucking break it again.”

 

BY RYAN BRADFORD

 

The underlying mysticism in …And You Will Know Us By The
Trail Of Dead’s music has become the diametric yin to the band’s wild Texan
image (don’t they break shit on stage?), making them one of rock’s most
intriguing-yet-polarizing, bands. Naturally, while discussing the band’s new releases
with singer/multi-instrumentalist Conrad Keely, religion and spirituality come
up.

 

“Bells of Creation” is based off [a] Protestant hymn that I
used to sing in the British school I went to,” says Keely of the track from TOD’s
Festival Time EP. Dead notes drive
the rousing stomper into a shimmering guitar build-up that culminates in a
full-scale drum apocalypse; this is hardly the pop experimentalism of 2006’s #So Divided#. Nor is it your grandma’s
idea of an uplifting church song.

 

For their sixth studio album The Century of Self, produced by Mike McCarthy and Chris “Frenchie”
Smith and out Feb. 17, drummer/vocalist Jason Reece says TOD is focusing on “a
more organic, natural sound,” as opposed to the more structured,
studio-oriented aesthetic of previous albums. “It’s really refreshing.” The new
album is also “more guitar-driven,” adds Keely. “We’ve been experimenting with
a lot more guitar sounds, whereas the last two records have been based around
piano.”

 

To further shake things up, Trail of Dead had experimental
entrepreneur Chris Coady (TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) master the album. They’ve
also ditched Interscope to form their own imprint, Richter Scale, on Justice
Records. “A lot of bands go for the ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ motto,”
says Reece. “We’re like, ‘Fucking break it again.'”