Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Best Music of 2008

What the heck did I listen to this year? When I first began this list, I was struggling to identify more than a couple of 2008 albums that I truly loved. I decided in the end to bend the rules a little bit, go all mavericky on you guys, and include things that aren't really albums. This list contains a few compilations, some live sets, and one single (plus its B-side). I also decided not to number it, since my #1 choice could not be called my "Album of the Year".

So here I go. In alphabetical order, first up is from Lawrence, Kansas...

The Anniversary - Devil On Our Side
The rarities and B-sides on this double disc span The Anniversary's whole existence. The best thing about it is how apparent the evolution of the band becomes when you listen to it. They went from power pop to classic rock influences to folk and even a hint of country at the end. And I love all of it, the whole entire twisted timeline. Reunion show? Please? The Get Up Kids reunited this year...I have hope.

Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
I debated internally for quite a while about whether or not to include this record. At last I decided that even though it didn't meet my undoubtedly high expectations, it's still a solid effort by DCFC. There are several tracks on it that remind me why Matt and I worship The Gibber around here. Songs like "Talking Bird" and "The Ice is Getting Thinner" are heartbreaking stories told with his trademark delicate imagery.

The Decemberists - Always the Bridesmaid, Vol. 3
Ok, so this is really a single. But it is still a physical record with an A-side and a B-side, and you can't fault me for loving "Record Year" as much as I do. There goes Colin with his mindf-ing ability to rhyme sexy four-dollar words. This time it's patina (a brown or green film on metal caused by oxidation) with proserpina (goddess of the underworld). The B-side, "Raincoat Song" feautres drummer John Moen on drums, and his backing vocals mark the first time I have not longed to have Rachel Blumberg's voice back in the band. SPOILER ALERT!: Their next record, Hazards of Love, will likely top my 2009 list. And if it doesn't top Matt's, we will knife fight.

Girl Talk - Murders Seattle (Live Bootleg)
This was recorded in late 2007, but I don't care. (See above: mavericky!) I found it in 2008 and listened compulsively. I was amazed once again at how he combined his new samples, and how he mixed his older ones from Night Ripper in new ways. When Feed the Animals came out, I didn't have the same incredulous reaction as I had already heard many of the mashups. And so, Girl Talk Murders Seattle was what won my heart this year.

Horse Feathers - House With No Home
Beautifully sparse folk record from a band in Portland. What's in the water over there, anyway? Some kind of creativity serum, I think. Very beautiful; the strings have this gorgeous resiny, oaky sound.

Mason Proper - Olly Oxen Free
Hometown heroes! I feel so proud when Michigan rock gets some props. This latest record has brought Mason Proper into the limelight. Their previous one, There is a Moth in Your Chest, is just as good if not better. So consider this choice on the list a twofer: you get two great records for the price of one.

Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
The melodies are still catchy as hell, the harmonies are still adorable. But sadly, this time there is no growly vintage organ. It was feebly replaced by a piano. How about something better next time, like maybe a melodica? (I totally used to have one of those when I was a kid. I wonder if my parents still have it...)

The Morning Benders - The Bedroom Covers
Just what it sounds like: an indie band records acoustic covers of well-known songs in someone's bedroom. It's available to download for free from the band's blog, and it's definitely worth checking out. The songs they picked will always be excellent no matter how much they get stripped down. Awesome to hear a new take on songs I'd heard a million times and never thought very much about.

Nada Surf - Lucky
Here was one band I love that did not disappoint this year. I hope these guys never stop putting out records. Thank you, Barsuk, for resurrecting them from one-hit wonderland.

Port O'Brien - All We Could Do Was Sing
If Sea Wolf and The Arcade Fire had a baby...wait a minute. I can't believe I just did the hypothetical band mating scenario to describe someone's sound. I promised myself I would never do that on this blog. I'm a better writer than that. But it is getting late. And what I said was just as true as it is cringeworthy.
You can buy this from CD Baby. I love CD Baby. I once asked them to draw a square-headed robot on my shipping envelope and they did.

The Portland Cello Project - s/t
This is the most surprising album on the list. This group of musicians is really talented and versatile. They take everything from pop to folk to hip hop and interpret it in ways I never thought a classical ensemble could. Plus, the secret track is the Super Mario theme song.

Rivers Cuomo - Alone Vol 1.
This was released very late in 2007, so I think it's fair to include it for 08. I'd heard many of Alone's tracks before, as they could not hide from my rabid Weezer obsession of the late 90s. But one song on this album was once considered the Holy Grail of Weezer fan-dom: "Superfriend". I am sad Rivarz fixed the spelling, because it was always referred to as "Superfreind". Neither Napster nor any message board could ever unearth this song for the fans who were clamoring for it - and for a follow up to Pinkerton. Too bad releasing it now doesn't make up for all the worthless sludge he's put out for the last 10 years.

Tom Waits - Glitter and Doom tour stop in Atlanta, GA
After driving to all the way to Knoxville to see Tom Waits (and visiting Yee Haw Press!) I was so excited to find out that NPR taped one of the stops on his tour. The show I saw was absolutely fantastic, and NPR's recording almost succeeds at allowing me to relive his showmanship. His live versions of many songs were very different from the original recordings, and so I'm thankful to be able to listen to this setlist again. And again. And I have.

1 comment:

criscom said...

Great list - I especially like the sublists! Here's mine:

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