Archive for January, 2009

My Favorite Music of 2008

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

It’s that favorite time of year again.  I think this is the 4th year that I’ve made a “best of the year” music compilation, but last time I did it I was unemployed.  This sucker takes some time!!  So last year I broke it out into two lists – genuinely new music (released that year) and “new to me” music that was released earlier but that I discovered in the previous year.  I ain’t got time for that this year, so here’s my one big list that covers both categories.

My Sources:

When other folks share new music with me, I’m always curious to hear how they discover it.  I had four main sources this year:

1) Music-loving friends

2) Pandora

3) Paste Magazine Sampler CDs – I liked at least a couple songs on every sampler they sent me.

4) Opening Acts for concerts I went to

so there you have it, and here’s the list.  Download link is at the bottom

  1. Lately – The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead.  The lyrics are a clever take on a post-breakup mindset, the guitars and bass are simple but pretty and efficient, and the drums are fantastic.
  2. San Francisco – Brett Dennen – Hope for the Hopeless. Nice little ditty about the city I left last year.  I like Brett Dennen
  3. Neon Tiger – The Killers – Day & Age. This is my favorite track on the new(est) Killers album.
  4. The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance – Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend. Love ’em or hate ’em, you gotta love ’em.  This is my favorite track on their huge debut.  I’ll be very curious to see if the sophomore effort slumps.
  5. Intelligentactile 101 – Jesca Hoop – Kismet. I saw her open for Mark Knopfler and she peaked my curiosity enough to buy the CD.  I really like 4/5 of this song, the other 1/5 is a little annoying, but the 4/5 is good enough to include.
  6. Always Where I Need to Be – The Kooks – Konk. I like rock songs, and this is one.  Poppy, but still definitely rock.  From the UK nonetheless.
  7. Un-Named – Leona Naess – Thirteens. Just one sort of catchy track off of what is one of my favorite albums of the year.  I wish I had seen more of her set when she opened for Ray LaMontagne.  Such a pretty voice.
  8. I Woke Up Today – Port O’Brien – All We Could Do Was Sing. The song starts out with everyone singing, and then… everyone keeps right on singing… all the way through the song.  Kind of Arcade Fire-esque, but different.
  9. It’s You – Pictures and Sound – Pictures and Sound. A little on the sweet and poppy side, but I really like the bassline and I like the overall vibe of the song enough to include it.  I also owe this find to Paste Magazine.
  10. Hallelujah – The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead. The other song I really dig by these guys.  It’s good.
  11. Hard Livin’ – Railroad Earth – Amen Corner. I actually don’t love the banjo or the Mandolin.  It’s safe to say I don’t really like this kind of music, but I like this song and I think a lot of my music-loving friends will dig it too.
  12. This is How We Kiss – Throw Me The Statue – Moonbeams. This album came out early in the year, and it seems a lot of people forgot about it.  The whole album has a great sound, but I like this track ’cause it almost sounds like the Cars could have written it if they took the right drugs. Plus the album cover has boobs on it 🙂
  13. Up Against the Glass – The Botticellis – Old Home Movies. I discovered this band in San Francisco a while ago and they finally released an album.  They’ve got a lot of talent, but they seem to have a hard time getting their shit together.  I hope they do.
  14. Oh No – KaiserCartel – March Forth. Simple guitar, great melody build with harmonies and glockenspiel.  Reminds me a little of vibe in the Cowboy Junkies version of “Sweet Jane.”
  15. Brittle Bones – Richard Walters.  The intro guitar sounds like it could be Pink Floyd off of the wall, the vocal sounds kinda like Travis.  It’s a good recipe.
  16. Trashcan – The Delta Spirit – Ode to Sunshine. This song first caught my attention when What Made Milwaukee Famous covered it at ACL.  I wish I had taken their advice and gone to see The Delta Spirit while I was there, but I did come home and D/L the song and I really dig it.
  17. Another Day – Jamie Lidell – Jim. Saw this skinny white guy at ACL and loved him.
  18. Sad Eyes – Josh Rouse – Bedroom Classics. I guess this song has been out for a while (2001).  I had a live version for a while, but there was a flaw in the recording that drove me crazy.  I rediscovered this one in a Paste magazine sampler.  That sampler is awesome!
  19. Two Sisters – Fiction Plane – Left Side of the Brain. Sting’s Son Joe Sumner fronts this band.  Sounds like a younger sting who throws a lot of enthusiasm into his vocals.  This song is a rocker – a great addition to your workout mix.
  20. Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) – Beyonce – I Am…Sasha Fierce. I refuse to be restrained by your expectations of what kind of music should wind up on this list!  I too am Fierce like Sasha!  This is a great song (with a mediocre bridge that seems to reference Buzz Lightyear).  Plus seeing Andy Samberg as a backup dancer on SNL sealed the deal.

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Band of Horses and the Whigs at the Variety Playhouse 12/30/08

Friday, January 9th, 2009

I know, I just saw them at a small venue in Austin, but my buddy wanted to go, and I thought it could be a pretty cool New Year’s Eve Eve experience.  I was right.

The Whigs Open

I had heard from a few people that this band is good and that I needed to check them out when they opened for Kings of Leon in November.  I was late in November, but I’m glad I got to check them out this go ’round.  They’re a trio, and as soon as they started I liked them for two reasons: 1) they’ve got a great drummer and 2) They’ve got really active bass lines in most of their songs.  Everything they played, they played with authority and it really makes a difference.  I later remembered that someone told me one of them went to my high school, but I really didn’t recognize anyone while they were on stage.  I looked it up and ALL of them went to my high school, but alas they’re much younger than me.

Still they rocked pretty hard and I’m proud to share an alma mater with them.  The best line of the night was uttered by my (straight) buddy about the bass player: “his hair is awesome, do you think it does that naturally?”  He also later noted that his hair reminded him a bit of this guy from Fat Albert:

Band of Horses:

(a cool SC landscape was projected behind them after the curtain opened up.  I didn’t even know the VP had a curtain!)

I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned that it was sold out.  Thanks to Craig’s list we were able to get tickets day-of (albeit at a slight premium).  I really think we saw this band at the optimal popularity level.  The crowd was very into the show, but we were still able to comfortably get about 4 rows of people from the stage.
The band took the stage, and they were trying harder than Broken Social Scene to make it look like they just rolled out of bed and hadn’t showered in at least a week.  It’s a good rock and roll look – lends a lot of credibility.  After the opener (which I think was a new song), the singer announced that they were going to be doing a lot of new stuff, and “if you get bored, let us know and we’ll play some old stuff.” They followed through on the promise and played a lot of stuff I didn’t recognize.  I liked most of it, and only a little bit of it sounded slightly formulaic – i.e. too much like other BOH material.
We did have one dude standing right behind us who was a little too enthusiastic to see this band.  He knew the second half of every line to every song and he was ready and willing to yell the lyrics at the top of his lungs as soon as he remembered them.  He was funny for a little while, then really annoying.  Luckily he kept disappearing to get beers and I have to assume he got distracted because we got a nice reprieve from him for a good part of the show.
When they played “The Funeral,” there was a couple in front of us slow dancing and making out.  Strange choice for a make out song if you ask me.
When they played “the General Specific,” the singer was hitting a tambourine with a drumstick, and about 2/3 of the way through the song he broke the tambourine.  He then made a critical mistake – one I hope he never makes again.  He tossed the broken tambourine into the audience… only the show wasn’t over.  The dude who caught the tambourine enjoyed his 15 seconds of fame, and we thought the excitement was over.  Unfortunately, he thought catching the tambourine was akin to being appointed the Audience Tambourinist for the rest of the show.  For each subsequent show he would spend the first half of the song trying to feel out his Tambourine part, then he’d belt it out for the middle of the song, before becoming tired and resting up until the next song.  He sucked.
I remembered from the last time I saw them that the keyboardist sang lead vocals on one song, and they played that (new) song again.  The chorus goes something like “after all my plans, they sink into the sand…” and it’s a good song – I look forward to when they release it.  The remarkable thing is that the keyboardist sounds EXACTLY like the lead singer.  It’s just crazy to me that two people with that voice wound up in the same band.  The keyboardist also looks like Bam Margera’s dad.
When it came time to play the encores, we could tell the band was enjoying themselves.  They played a few, and spent a long time discussing things before they played the second-to-last song.  It was a slow song (I think it was Detlef Schrempf), and while the performance wasn’t anything that exceptional, as the song came to a close the singer announced “we’ve never played this one before, we don’t know how to end it.”  After a while the song just wound down, but it’s always special to get to hear something like that for the first time.
Overall, they put on a great show.  Now is a perfect time in their career to see this band, so if you get the chance I recommend you jump on it!
Other songs and instruments played:
“Am I a good man” (Them Two Cover)
Two Pedal Steel guitars
A mini keyboard with one of those hoses attached that you blow into (what is this thing called?)
Happy New Year!