Sunday, January 11, 2009

My 88 Favorite Albums of 2008

2008 was an interesting year for music. For much of the year I was complaining about new music- how there seemed to be so few standout albums in comparison to recent years. Last year Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam, Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, M.I.A.’s Kala, LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver, Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Deerhoof’s Friend Opportunity, The National’s Boxer, and of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? were just a few of many fantastic releases that are still being heavily talked about. For 2006 there was Joanna Newsom (especially), Grizzly Bear, Tom Waits, Beirut, The Hold Steady, TV on the Radio, Destroyer, Islands, the Decemberists, Belle & Sebastian, Bob Dylan, Sunset Rubdown, Yo La Tengo, Liars..... wow that year was epic. Half way through 2008 I only had a handful of albums that I really dug. Lots of anticipated releases proved to be major letdowns. The new albums by of Montreal, Jenny Lewis, Cat Power, My Morning Jacket, and Brian Wilson I found to be really weak to awful. Wolf Parade, Islands, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, M83, the Hold Steady, and Destroyer on the other hand put out albums that were not bad my any means, yet did not come even close to the heights the bands have previously achieved. Instead, I felt that newer bands were responsible for much of this years best work- bands with debut albums this year or ones that were previously established yet truly emerged from the shadows of music obscurity. For example, Fleet Foxes, The Dodos, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, Hercules and Love Affair, Santogold, Titus Andronicus, Vivian Girls, Frightened Rabbit, Fuck Buttons, and Ponytail seemingly appeared out of nowhere this year yet all put out solid albums. Some would also add Los Campesinos and Crystal Castles to that list, though I generally was not a big fan of those albums. Also, bands like Deerhunter, No Age, Gang Gang Dance, Marnie Stern, Atlas Sound, Girl Talk, Beach House, and Cut Copy - ones that have been hyped in the past went beyond what they were before, reaching many new ears as well as artistic heights. Lastly there is the great albums by well established bands category. Though there’s less here, Portishead and Nick Cave are of mention, as both returned to the music scene (Nick Cave’s last album with the Bad Seeds was 2004 but it’s been over a decade for Portishead) with unexpectedly fantastic albums. The Walkmen also put out their best album since 2004, and if I continue to feel the same way about their latest, it may prove to be my favorite. I found Distortion to be Stephin Merritt’s best work since 69 Love Songs with its combination of Psychocandy influenced distortion and Merritt’s consistently great songwriting. TV on the Radio did the near impossible and followed up the ridiculously critically acclaimed Return to Cookie Mountain with an album that is even more acclaimed. Spiritualized came out with their first album since 2003, and this as well received incredibly positive reviews. It’s amazing how Jason Pierce after five Spiritualized albums and his brilliant work with Spacemen 3 (beginning in 1982) can still put out such good and fresh sounding music. David Byrne’s new collaboration with Brian Eno, their first since 1981, was also great, especially considering all the godly previous work the two have done on their own. They sure have not lost it. I managed to see David Byrne live this year and it was easily one of the best shows I have ever seen. He sounds better than ever, and played a wonderfully varied setlist. The Breeders and Wire also returned this year with really good albums. They both also toured and played like hardly any time had passed since their prime. Wire especially. It was like I was back in ‘77 during the Pink Flag numbers in their set. 12 XU! The B-52's also came out with their first album since 1992, but I wasn't a fan. Then again, it’s really only their first album that I’m obsessed with. Anyways enough talk- here’s the list.

88. The Bug - London Zoo
87. Black Kids - Partie Traumatic
86. The B-52's - Funplex
85. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
84. Cat Power - Jukebox
83. Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
82. Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
81. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
80. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
79. Weezer- Red Album
78. Harvey Milk - Life... The Best Game in Town
77. Kimya Dawson - Alphabutt
76. of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
75. The Cure - 4:13 Dream
74. Scarlett Johansson - Anywhere I lay my Head
73. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
72. Los Campesinos! - We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed
71. Lindstrom - Where You Go I Go Too
70. A Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band - 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
69. Times New Viking - Rip It Off
68. Max Tundra - Parallex Error Beheads You
67. Coldplay - Vida La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
66. She & Him - Volume 1
65. Islands - Arm’s Way
64. All Girl Summer Fun Band - Looking into It
63. They Might Be Giants - Here Comes the 123s
62. Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
61. Adam Green - Sixes & Sevens
60. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
59. Fennesz - Black Sea
58. Megapuss - Megapuss
57. Boston Spaceships - Boston Spaceships
56. DJ/Rupture - Uproot
55. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
54. Mark Kozelek - The Finally LP
53. Music Tapes - For Clouds and Tornadoes
52. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
51. Wire - Object 47
50. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
49. Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward
48. Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life
47. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
46. High Places - High Places
45. Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali
44. Matmos - Supreme Balloon
43. Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
42. Mount Eerie - Dawn
41. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
40. Sun Kil Moon - April
39. Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual
38. Deerhunter - Weird Era Cont
37. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything that Happens Will Happen Today
36. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
35. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colors
34. Santogold - Santogold
33. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy - Lie down in the Light
32. Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
31. Women - Women
30. Why? - Alopecia
29. Fuck Buttons - Street Horrsing
28. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
27. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
26. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
25. Breeders - Mountain Battles
24. Spiritualized - Songs in A&E
23. Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
22. Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair
21. Okkervil River - The Stand ins
20. Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight
19. Marnie Stern - This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
18. The Mae Shi - HLLLYH
17. Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
16. Beach House - Devotion
15. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
14. Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances
13. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
12. No Age - Nouns
11. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
10. Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls
9. Magnetic Fields - Distortion
8. Portishead - Third
7. The Dodos - Visiter
6. Mount Eerie - Lost Wisdom
5. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
4. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
3. The Walkmen - You & Me
2. Deerhunter - Microcastles
1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Man what a year this has been for Fleet Foxes. The band came to Clark along with Blitzen Trapper on March 30th. As a result of an apparently incredible performance at SXSW on March 14th, the word had begun to spread on the band. Still, both their EP and album had yet to be released. I had read about the band a bit on BrooklynVegan and Stereogum before the show and managed to find a couple of sample mp3s. I was quite impressed on first listen. I remember thinking, wow, this is the opening band? Blitzen Trapper better put on a great show, or they’ll be upstaged. The band had played the previous night at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC and there were already multiple blog posts about their performance, including Stereogum. The show apparently sold out, and was packed in anticipation of both bands.
When they took stage I was right up front. They walked on casually, as if they were just some bar band that was hanging out drinking before it was time for their set. It was true that the majority of attendees had no idea who this opening band was. There had to be no more than 40 people in the venue at that point. Robin, the lead singer, handed a copy of the EP to the kid standing next to me. He said something along the lines of - hey, have a free CD. When they began their set with the a-capella Sun Giant, the entire place became quiet. No conversations, no whispering, nothing. How often to you see that for an opening band? Everyone was just as compelled during the rest of the set. The band often made small talk with the audience between songs, including a memorable Q: “what’s the most popular major here?” A: “Marijuana!” exchange. It was just so incredible how tight this band was, with their interjecting harmonies, gorgeous melodies and beautiful singing all around. It somehow felt tightly calculated and well practiced yet loose and relaxed at the same time. Regardless it was easily one of the most compelling shows I have seen. This was the setlist:
Sun Giant /Sun it Rises / Drops in the River / English House/ Katie Cruel/ White Winter Hymnal/ Your Protector / Oliver James/ Mykonos/ Blue Ridge Mountains Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
The band also announced that it was Robin’s 22nd birthday that show. That completely blew my mind and made me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. Blitzen Trapper played a great show as well, and Fleet Foxes joined them onstage for an energetic performance of their closer. Blitzen Trapper mentioned onstage that we all witnessed history with Fleet Foxes that night, as one day they would be massive. Right they were.
No that I’ve said nothing about the album itself, I’ll say that it is an epic, wonderful, and beautiful thing, especially when compiled with the EP. Though they are massive now (White Winter Hymnal is getting 19,000 plays a week on - holy shit!) I feel like their hype is completely deserved. They are both a band that puts out incredible music and performs it even better than it sounds on the record, yet they maintain incredibly humble and in touch with listeners. Robin is actually an active poster on the atease forums and is very gracious regarding praise and open to criticism. There’s a gigantic 45-page Fleet Foxes thread with about 40 posts in it by him. It’s very cool. He says he’s very cool with people uploading his music there, considering how much new music he’s discovered on that board himself. In one he gets a poster into a sold out show by putting him on the guest list. I just hope now as they keep getting bigger they maintain the close relationship they have with their fans, as well as the intimate quality that their live show emanated. I mean they played and sold out the Summerville Theater in MA in October and that place has a 1,000+ capacity. I sincerely doubt they will though. “I'm just a music fan really, I come on here to find new stuff like everyone else... I'm not special!”

Looking forward, I think 2009 is going to be a good year. I mean we’re just 10 days into the year and already an album came out that it better than anything released in 2008 (Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion.) Unless Grizzly Bear gives that album a run for its money (which they very well could) or the next Joanna Newsom album actually comes out (or My Bloody Valentine!!), I likely will be here at this time next year doing a write up on Animal Collective. There’s lots more to look forward too.New albums by Antony & the Johnsons and Handsome Furs have leaked, and though I have yet to listen I’ve heard very good things. I think the new Franz Ferdinand may have leaked too. Let’s see what has release dates....

Beirut - March of the Zapotec (Feb 1)
Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You (Feb 10)
Morrissey - Years of Refusal (Feb 16)
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead -The Century of Self (Feb 17)
Architecture in Helsink - That Beep (Feb 17)
M. Ward - Hold Time (Feb. 17)
Black Lips- 200 Million Thousand (Feb. 24)
Dan Deacon - Bromst (March 24)
The Decemberists - Hazards Of Love (March 24)
Depeche Mode - [Title TBA] (April 20)

And TBA albums:
Annie, Arcade Fire (?), The Avalanches, Blur, Bright Eyes, Broken Social Scene, Built to Spill, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (?), Deer Tick, Dirty Projectors, Final Fantasy, Gang of Four, Jay Reatard, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Liars, Lightning Bolt, Marissa Nadler, Menomena, Roxy Music, Sonic Youth, The Strokes, Wilco, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Coooooool. Now if Jeff Mangum gets it together this year, 2009 will be truly special. I don't really want another formal NMH album, but I would totally kill to see In the Aeroplane Over the Sea performed live in its entirety.

I'll end this with a ranking of all the live shows I caught this year. I saw a few bands on here twice (The Breeders + The Magnetic Fields) so I only listed the best of the two shows I saw.

Live Shows:
1. Joanna Newsom @ BAM (best of the year and best of my life)
2. David Byrne @ Calvin Theatre
3. Blitzen Trapper/ Fleet Foxes @ The Grind
4. Magnetic Fields @ Iron Horse
5. Wire @ Middle East
6. Radiohead/Grizzly Bear @ Comcast Center
7. Deerhoof @ Pearl Street
8. Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron @ The Grind
9. Breeders @ Paradise
10. Daniel Johnston @ Lupo’s
11. Built to Spill/Dinosaur Jr./Meat Puppets @ Orpheum
12. Y.A.C.H.T. @ The Grind
13. Rilo Kiley @ Lupo’s
14. Deer Tick @ The Grind
15. Lou Reed @ Calvin Theatre
16. Matt & Kim @ The Grind
17. No Age @ Grind
18. Explosions in the Sky @ Lupo’s
19. Islands @ Middle East
20. of Montreal @ Orpheum
21. Kimya Dawson @ Clark University
22. Dirty Projectors @ Grind

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mix CD: Favorite Songs of 2008 (#1 of 4)

So for the past 5 years it has been a tradition of mine to make a mix CD with all my favorite songs from albums that were released. It can be difficult to choose, as well as make song cuts so everything is under 80 minutes. I try to stay up to date with current well received releases and on average listen to about 25 to 30 new albums a year. Well this year was different, though only over the last few months. After being initially disappointed by the start of this year, I payed little attention to new music for most of 2008, instead looking to to past for bands I had yet to discover. Then around the end of the summer I begun to feel a bit out of the loop in terms of the present. I begun to play catchup. I now have listened to so many new albums this year, one mix simply wouldn't suffice, and instead four were needed. I've been working on ranking all the albums that I've heard this year - a list that will be complete very soon. Still, I have a good 15 albums that I still need to give a listen. My year end list will be near 80 albums. It's insane...I have no idea how I have listened to this much. Maybe that's why Christmas seemed to sneak up so quickly this year- no time for x-mas music! Crazy crazy.

Anyways, here's four mixes of my favorite songs of the year. I'm very happy with how these turned out. I put a bit of effort into them to make sure all the songs flowed into one another well and worked together as a whole. I also made sure not to use more than two songs from the same album. Links via megaupload.

So yes, enjoy! Albums and concerts of 2008 is forthcoming.

Mix #1

1. Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For the Others
2. Bon Iver - Skinny Love
3. Deerhunter - Nothing Ever Happened
4. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
5. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
6. The Walkmen - In the New Year
7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig
8. Frightened Rabbit - The Modern Leper
9. Hot Chip - Ready for the Floor
10. Hercules & Love Affair - Blind
11. Gang Gang Dance - House Jam
12. Portishead - The Rip
13. Spiritualized - Soul on Fire
14. Department of Eagles - No One Does It Like You
15. Vivian Girls - Where Do You Run To
16. Marnie Stern - Transformer
17. No Age - Teen Creeps
18. The Breeders - Bang On
19. Magnetic Fields - Too Drunk to Dream
20. Animal Collective - Water Curses
21. Mount Eerie - You Swan, Go On

Mix CD: Favorite Songs of 2008 (#2 of 4)

Mix #2

1. The Mae Shi - Run to Your Grave
2. Deerhoof - Fresh Born
3. Santogold - L.E.S Artistes
4. Girl Talk - Here’s the Thing
5. Cut Copy - Feel the Love
6. TV on the Radio - Halfway Home
7. Wire - One of Us
8. Beach House - Gila
9. M83 - We Own the Sky
10. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
11. She & Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
12. Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma
13. Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines
14. Fleet Foxes - Mykonos
15. Conor Oberst - Milk Thistle
16. Destroyer - Foam Hands
17. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy - So Everyone
18. David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens
19. The Walkmen - I Lost You

Mix CD: Favorite Songs of 2008 (#3 of 4)

Mix #3

1. Mount Eerie - Domesticated Dog
2. Wolf Parade - Language City
3. Titus Andronicus - Titus Andronicus
4. The Dodos - Fools
5. Atlas Sound - River Card
6. TV on the Radio - DLZ
7. Why? - The Hollows
8. Islands - The Arm
9. Portishead - Machine Gun
10. Amadou & Mariam - Sabali
11. David Byrne and Brian Eno - Strange Overtones
12. Morrissey - That’s How People Grow Up
13. Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules’ Theme
14. Fucked Up - Son the Father
15. All Girl Summer Fun Band - Something New
16. Boston Spaceships - You Satisfy Me
17. Spiritualized - Sweet Talk
18. Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love for Planet Earth

Mix CD: Favorite Songs of 2008 (#4 of 4)

Mix #4:

1. Titus Andronicus - Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ
2. Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed
3. No Age - Ripped Knees
4. Deerhunter - Agoraphobia
5. M83 - Kim & Jessie
6. The Dodos - Jodi
7. Bon Iver - Flume
8. Beach House - Wedding Bell
9. Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook
10. Ponytail - Beg Waves
11. Gang Gang Dance - First Communication
12. Cut Copy - Out There on Ice
13. Conor Oberst - Cape Canaveral
14. Adam Green - Tropical Island
15. Megapuss - Adam & Steve
16. Deerhoof - Chandelier Searchlight
17. Vampire Weekend - M79
18. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - We Call Upon the Author
19. Women - Black Rice
20. The Breeders - We’re Gonna Rise