The time is here. 2008 has been another great year for music, lots of releases from established artists looking for a return to form as well as some new bands trying to reach that next level. Here's what I've been digging in list form:
FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2008
1. 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
I just discovered this record listening to Henry Rollins radio show. Simply put: this album is CRAZY. I'd venture a guess that if you pick this one up it'll definitely be one of the most avant garde things you've heard all year. Marnie certainly brings a creative voice to modern music and her guitar playing is incredible. Highly recommended.
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Nick and the Bad Seeds continue to rock our collective worlds. This record was just a few more "great" songs away from getting into my top ten, but was still worthwhile. As usual Nick's lyrics are the stand out, especially on "more news from nowhere" (featured above).
3. REM: Accelerate
I was pretty disappointed by this release. It felt to me like REM was trying a bit too hard to recapture the exuberance of their formative years. Still, even just a couple great REM songs is definitely worth your time.
4. Ryan Adams: Cardinology
This was a bit too much like 2007's Easy Tiger....only not as good.
5. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Real Emotional Trash
This record was great, but having a 10 minute song so early in really killed the flow for me. Nice to hear Janet from Sleater-Kinney still making great music after their hiatus.
Okay, now its for keeps.
#10 She & Him: Volume 1
This record has been all over top 10 lists for good reason as its probably the best pure "pop" record of the decade. These songs, along with Zooey Deschanel's voice feel timeless and the melodies remind me of anything from Brian Wilson to The Ronettes.
#9 Elvis Costello and The Imposters: Momofuku
Classic Costello here. Standouts are "American Gangster Time", "Pardon me Madam, my name is Eve" and "Turpentine"
#8 Martha Wainwright: I know you're married....but I've got feelings too
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuX5Fwiaj70 (stupid UMG disabling embed)
Martha is one of my favorite female vocalists. I've seen her twice as an opener, one for the swell season and once for stephen malkmus. Some might call her wailing on songs like "Hearts Club Band" a bit histrionic, I call it transcendent.
#7 Billy Bragg: Mr Love and Justice
Its rare when an artist actually releases one of their best records roughly two decades after their first but Billy managed to pull it off. The usual quirky mix of songs about love and politics.
#6 Jenny Lewis: Acid Tongue
Classic examples of great songwriting are all over this record, I need to check out more stuff that Jenny Lewis has done.
#5 Spiritualized: Songs in A and E
"Soul on Fire" = Song of the year. Period.
#4 Drive-by Truckers: Brighter than Creation's Dark.
Hard to find a more consistent double record released this decade. This band manages to release an absolute gem despite membership changes. Patterson Hood turns out great songs like "The Righteous Path" and "You and your crystal meth", Mike Cooley steals the show with deep character sketches like "Bob" and "Lisa's Birthday" and Shonna Tucker gets all sultry with cuts like "Houston" and "Purgatory Line". Essential listening here.
#3 The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
Falling short of their last record "Boys and Girls in America" The Hold Steady still manage to fuse Springsteenian anthems with Hardcore sensibility to make an excellent record.
#2 The Helio Sequence: Keep Your Eyes Ahead
The best band to ever come out of Beaverton, OR released their latest record early on this year, but its managed to hold a spot on my ipod for some time now (best hard on vinyl though, obviously). Beatleesque melodies meet blistering drums in a cacophonous reaffirmation of the power of rock and roll.
#1 Lisa Hannigan: Sea Sew
Okay, so this Irish record will technically be released in the US in 2009 - but I didn't want Bruce keeping Lisa from the number one spot when this record is sooooo good. After being fired by Damien Rice Lisa manages to release a record thats better than anything hes done in the studio (live though, Damien is hard to surpass, the again I've never seen a full Lisa Hannigan show.) Every song on this record is perfect. Great arrangements, lyrics, performances (especially vocally) tones and textures etc. My favorite female artist of all time.
One artist I've always wanted to check out and finally did and one I just found out about:
Where have you been all my life Tom? Hoping to get the full discography with Christmas money. Still trying to wrap my ahead around some of his releases. Definitely in that top 5 living songwriters (with Springsteen, Dylan, Young and Wilson IMO).
BEST. OPENER. EVER. More on that later. I'm hoping he'll come to Portland so I can take a big posse to be mindblown by his sheer talent.
Aforementioned. Blew away by them at the Crystal. Records like Decoration Day will surely be in my top 50.
TOP FIVE SHOWS OF 2008:
#5 Ryan Adams – Elsinore Theatre – Salem, OR 1/25
First electric show with Ryan and the Cards. "I see monsters" was a KILLER closer. The Elsinore theater was immaculate and had tons of character. I'd love to see another show there.
#4 Billy Bragg w/ CR Avery - Pacific Northwest College of Art - Portland, OR 6/07
Again, BEST. OPENER. EVER. Billy is a can't miss live artist seamlessly weaving fantastic songs with great anecdotes. "The Spacerace is Over" was incredibly moving.
#3 The Hold Steady w/ Drive by Truckers - Crystal Ballroom - Portland, OR 11/22
It took a week to recuperate after rocking that hard. That should give you some idea of how badass that show was.
#2 Pearl Jam w/ Ted Leo - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY 6/24
In NYC on my honeymoon. Ted Leo opening. Madison Square Garden. Pearl Jam. Do the math. First night beats out second night due to the setlist.
#1 Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - Rose Garden Arena - Portland, OR 3/28
I managed to get in the pit and stand about 10 rows away from my idol. This was a real emotional night for me, one I'll never forget. My first E-street band show. Hopefully not the last.
Well, thats it for music in 2008. What did you listen to?