Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Top 30 of 2008! (Part 2: 10-1)

Yesterday I covered 30-11, read it here.

10. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have been doing this music thing for a very long time, but this is my first experience with there music, so I have nothing in their back catalog to compare it to, but if Dig!!! is any indicator, I need to look into them.

This album is laced with gritty guitars, funky bass lines, instrumental textures, electronic noises, and Cave's distinct vocals. Lyrically it mixes complicated biblical imagery, such as the story of Lazarus in the title track, with a gritty real world-ness that blends perfectly with the music and vocals. Both dark, and exciting, angry, and humorous, and at the same times, sacred and profane, Dig!!! walks a line that feels so honest and real that anyone can relate to if you let yourself.
Check it out

9. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology
Ryan Adams is at it again. This guy puts out so much consistently good music that he has earned a yearly spot on this list. Cardinology finds him once again with the Cardinals, which in my opinion is when he is at his best.

Cardinology might be my favorite Adams album since 2005's Cold Roses. That might not seem like a big deal, being only 3 years ago, but that was 5 albums in the past. As with Roses and last years Easy Tiger, this is Ryan blending seamlessly his brand of Alt. Country with good ol' Rock n' Roll, some 60's southern rock, and some glimpses at his early career in punk rock. The downfall with Easy Tiger was the rocker "Holloweenhead", it was almost enough to ruin the album. Cardinology is void of any such low point.
Check it out

8. Starflyer 59 - Dial M
Starflyer 59 has been making great music since 1993, but outside of a very devoted fan base, not many people know of them. Founder, front-man, and songwriter Jason Martin takes his band in a different direction then past albums, at risk of upsetting their fan base, the results are an album that is both original and interesting and just plain enjoyable to listen to.

Dial M has Starflyer exploring areas they have always dabbled in like new-wave, electronica, and shoe-gaze, but not showing any of the restraint to jump all the way in that could be heard in previous releases. There is such a smooth groove to these songs with Starflyer's signature melodic guitars blended perfectly with synths that don't ever threaten to sound too cheesy. Those who liked Starflyer at their rockiest in Silver or I Am the Portuguese Blues might not like this record, but it is nothing short of a natural maturing and progression of a band developing a sound that is truly original. Lyrically Dial M has a clearer message then earlier Starflyer albums with more openly spiritual content and more audible vocals.
Check it out

7. Sun Kil Moon- April
This is Indie/Slowcore band Sun Kil Moon's third release. Mark Kozelek got some help with backing vocals from Will Oldham, Ben Gibbard and Eric Pollard on this one.

April starts off slowly, but you have to stay with this one, it builds gradually to reveal beautiful melodic arrangements, you will know them when you get to them. This is album seems so delicate and harmless at first, but Kozelek knows how to craft a song that will carry with it enough emotion, and power to move anyone. The heavy mood set by the slow churning guitar is brought to a whole other level by Kozelek's deep, dark, introspective, yet comfortable lyrics. It will give you goose bumps.
Check it out

6. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend's debut self titled album mixes up something like I haven't heard before. Their unique blend of Chamber rock arraignments, Afro-pop beats and guitars, 80's pop, and reggae make something completely unexpected from 4 college kids from New York.

Vampire Weekend shows obvious influence from Afro-pop in the same way 80's acts like Peter Gabriel, the Talking Heads, and Paul Simon did it, but somehow they pull it off in a way that makes this music seem incredibly relevant. Enormous melodies, chimes and hopping guitars provide a unique contrast to lyrics taking a seemingly sarcastic look at privileged suburban life. While pulling form world music stylings, make no mistake, this is an indie pop record. Lead singer Ezra Koenig's vocals clash just enough with the musical style to keep it interesting. If you are looking for something new in a sea of boring music, this might be it.
Check it out

5. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes have taken the indie rock world by storm since their debut album dropped in June. Appearing as #1 on a lot of 2008 music lists. It looks like Seattle is making a name on the music scene once again.

Epic baroque pop and moody harmonic vocals make Fleet Foxes a brilliantly crafted and intelligent debut album. Heavily influenced by folk/rock legends of the past, like Neil Young, Van Morrison, Simon and Garfunkle, and the Beach Boys, there is something so comforting about this album, it's like they took the best of American music and wrapped it in a new package. In the same vain as Midlake, My Morning Jacket, or even the Shins, they explore the echoing harmonic story telling with layers and layers of acoustic musical textures for a complicated yet obviously folky feel. This is a brilliantly beautiful album from a band stepping out in a big way. I can't wait to see what the future holds for Fleet Foxes.
Check it out

4. Shearwater- Rook
This year Jonathan Meiburg did better with his break off band then his original band Okkervil River. Shearwater's fifth studio album deserves it's high rating, and I had a hard time not placing it higher. This album is nothing short of amazing.

Rooks has so much going on in it that you would think it would be too much, but Shearwater some how can meld harp, glockenspiel, woodwind, and a hammer dulcimer among more conventional instruments such as guitar and piano into a musical landscape so vast that is seemingly will never run out of room for more. With all of this they still pull of a sound that evokes the feeling of desolation. Meiburg's often falsetto vocals are the emotional thread running through these songs. It is a sound that is both enormous and spacious, I really don't know how else to describe it. Just a beautiful record.
Check it out

3. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lie Down In The Light
Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy has been called an "Appalachian post-punk solipsist" and is notable for his unique voice, which has been described as "a fragile sort-of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition." Lie Down In The Light brings us Billy at his best.

Whichever way you look at it, this is an upbeat, uplifting record, almost sunny in outlook, but don't mistake that for a lack of intellect. This album takes you through the good and the bad of life, without ever losing sight of a hopeful aspect. Lyrically, Billy isn't anything if not honest. This album shows a musical maturity that isn't always present in "freak folk". The fiddles, woodwinds, pedal steel, banjos, bells, and piano, all feel like they fit perfectly within each song, not going to far as is often the case with a cast of this many players.
Check it out

2. TV on the Radio - Dear Science,
After there break out album, Return to Cookie Mountain, I never thought TV on the Radio would be able to follow it up with something even better. They are working on becoming one of my all time favorite bands if they keep this up.

Dear Science, is TV on the Radio's third, and best album yet. They are more tight and cohesive then in previous records, this is the sound of a band coming into it's own. Still melding musical influences from Prince to David Bowie in a way nobody else would dare, they have leaned a little heavier on some hip-hop and funk influences with this album without abandoning the noisy guitar, synth, reverb, and driving percussion of previous work. There is a sense of energy in this album, you can't listen to it without feeling like this is something important.
Check it out

1. Son Lux - At War With Walls and Mazes
Son Lux is basically 29 year old Ryan Lott of New York. Lott pieced together his debut album over the course of four years, using bits and pieces of recordings he'd gathered. In the process he created one of the most interestingly beautiful musical compositions I have heard, and this years Album of the Year!

At War With Walls and Mazes isn't like anything else I reviewed this year. It's more like appreciating a classical composition or even a work of art in a gallery, this piece goes beyond the limits of a normal music album. This album paints a sort or post-apocalyptic landscape with it's many layers of music and noise. It has weight behind it, building from a meek, gentle, lonely place into something so powerful and beautiful it makes you listen again. Lott's gentle, yearning, hushed, and a bit "off" vocal stylings layered over his musical landscape just add to the emotional power of this record. There are very few actual lyrics in this album, used more as an instrument or another layer of music added to the whole composition, but there is so much more content then can be read in the liner notes. There is no doubt a story of heavenly hope woven through this album. I think even more then a bunch of words could express, this album dives face first into the subjects of God, War, and internal conflict.
Check it out

There you have it! This years top 10 (plus 20). Go out and get yourselves some new music!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Top 30 Albums of 2008! (30-11)

There where ridicilous amounts of great music in 2008, make my list extreamly difficult. I can make an argument for any of my top 10 to be the album of the year, but there has to be an order of finish, so here it is, now expanded to Top 30!

30-11 just get product descriptions, 10-1 get my personal review.

30. Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken - Ampersand EP
Ampersand EP is essential listening for Derek Webb and Caedmon’s Call fans and for Sandra McCracken fans. And the all-new duo of Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken is bound to make new fans all its own.
Check it out

29. Weezer - Weezer (Red)
Early word on the sixth album from Weezer--and their third self-titled record, although fans, sensibly, are referring to it as "The Red Album"--is that this is their experimental record. Luckily, Rivers Cuomo isn’t interested in penning his own jazz odyssey; for him, experimental is just finding cunning ways to nuance Weezer’s stock-in-trade--crunchy, candy-sweet guitars and vocal harmonies--with new pop tricks.
Check it out

28. Innerpartysystem - Innerpartysystem
The debut from dance-rock outfit Innerpartysystem may be reminiscent of the Killers' first album, which isn't a bad thing at all. Hip-shaking rhythms, wiry synths, crunching guitars, and insistent hooks are woven through all 11 tracks of this self-titled first effort.
Check it out

27. British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
British Sea Power return with their third and finest full-length. The sound here is raw and spacious. Guitars remain largely drenched in reverb, and various acoustic instruments grace the arrangements, along with various random noises and happy accidents.
Check it out

26. She & Him - Volume One
Some of us first fell in love with Zooey Deschanel's distinctive and charming voice when she crooned, "Baby it’s cold outside," with Will Ferrell in their 2003 movie, Elf. In their first recorded collaboration as She & Him, Deschanel and M. Ward strike the same sincerity with his nostalgic production and her retro resonance.
Check it out

25. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Stay Positive is the fourth studio album from The Hold Steady and follows their hugely popular 2006 release Girls And Boys In America. Working once again with producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.), the album sees the band continue in the same direction their previous release took them, mixing classic bar-room style Rock with Craig Finn's half spoken/half sung lyrical tales of drinking, partying and love.
Check it out

24. Ben Folds - Way To Normal
Ben Folds is best known as a solo artist and as the front-man pianist of Ben Folds Five. He is celebrated for a sound that bridges the worlds of Jazz and Power Rock. Folds has proven to be a story-teller for the piano-rock generation.
Check it out

23. Cut//Copy - In Ghost Colours
At once both jacking and jangly, electronic and organic, cut copy have crafted a record filled with glorious sounds and moods but also unabashedly pop song structures and hooks and melodies for eons.
Check it out

22. Nada Surf - Lucky
Consistent: That’s the word that best describes the discography of New York’s Nada Surf, the jingle-jangle pop trio now in its second decade. With heavenly harmonies and swollen choruses, the band can always be counted on to deliver an album’s worth of hummable, single-worthy melodies.
Check it out

21. Jenny Lewis - Acid Toung
The all-star Acid Tongue represents something bigger and darker for Jenny Lewis. Without abandoning her roots, Rilo Kiley's front woman adds more soul and jazz weaponry to her musical arsenal, culminating in a record that combines the folky introspection of Joni Mitchell, circa Court and Spark, with the bluesy rock of the Rolling Stones, circa Sticky Fingers, i.e. slide guitar, Hammond B3 organ, and funk-oriented bass.
Check it out

20. Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Rough edges, cracked notes, and the sound of fingers on strings are audible resulting in tracks that prove to be the band's sparsest and most affecting work to date. Worry not though, plenty of electric guitar can be heard throughout the album ensuring Sigur Rós commitment to challenging sonic limitations.
Check it out

19. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
The songs continue with the lyrical themes and obsessions of their last album, The Stage Names, filled with references to famous bands, authors, films, TV shows, and other bits of high and low culture set to Will Sheff`s moody, guitar-based indie rock tunes.
Check it out

18. Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
Lucinda Williams has always been adept at painting landscapes of the soul, illuminating the spirit's shadowy nooks and shimmering crannies -- but she's never captured the sun breaking through the clouds as purely as on her new Lost Highway release, Little Honey.
Check it out

17. Amiee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers
Mann continues to prove herself as a richly evocative songwriter. Built out of acoustic guitars, faint touches of electronics, deep swells of organ, piano and strings, this modern yet rustic album is filled with character sketches and personal revelations.
Check it out

16. Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends
Viva La Vida definitely makes some departures from the band’s usual formula, which happens to be one of the most commercially successful rock-pop blueprints of recent years. The plangent chords, emotive melodies, stadium-rock rhythms and universal lyrical concerns remain, but Martin and co. have gone out on several limbs here, incorporating instrumental tracks, using subtle North African and Latin elements, and overhauling previously strict verse-chorus-verse structures in favor of slightly more avant arrangements.
Check it out

15. Jim Noir - Jim Noir
Jim's eponymous second album is one of the most expansive pop records you'll hear this year. His music has always been a melee of different styles and influences, and this album sees him delving more into his electronic side and going further with melody and vocals than before.
Check it out

14. Deerhunter - Microcastle
The narcotic drones and fragmented art-punk of their first album, Cryptograms, made the album either a love-it or hate-it proposition for many indie rock fans. Microcastle brings together the disparate elements that made Crytograms fascinating and frustrating, adding a little more pop and quite a bit more studio polish.
Check it out

13. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
Their breakthrough, "Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?" catapulted the band to the upper echelon of indie stardom. "Skeletal Lamping" also delivers. It's a complicated and dense thrill ride packed with slinky grooves. Unpredictable, unique, and epic.
Check it out

12. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Flight
They call themselves Frightened Rabbit, but there's nothing shy or timid about this Glasgow trio. On The Midnight Organ Fight, singer/guitarist Scott Hutchison says what he thinks--what he feels--and he doesn't hold anything back.For all the unvarnished honesty, a cautious optimism shines through.
Check it out

11. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Epic post-rock tinged emotional indie stalwarts Elbow release their fourth album 'The Seldom Seen Kid', another staunchand anthemic collection of songs. The tense and emotional sound of previous records remains, but with a distinctly more commercial riff-based template, particularly on lead single'Grounds For Divorce'.
Check it out

10-1 coming tomorrow.