So 2008 has been a pretty good year for music and I can't wait to do a list of my favorites at the end of this year. That will be a tough list to make since just in the past month, I have heard 4 serious contenders for Top 10 albums of the year. And you know what? None of them are from any cool, new bands.
There are a million blogs writing about great new releases by the likes of Jenny Lewis and TV on the Radio. I wanted to feature these 4 discs because they are all major surprises to me. I had written all these artists off for making any compelling new material a long time ago.
Make sure to try and give these all a spin or two. Your 2008 will be better for it....
Here is a playlist of my favorite song from each album:
David Byrne and Brian Eno-Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
In 1981, David Byrne and Brian Eno released the seminal, genre-hopping musical collage "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". 27 years later, these two musical geniuses have release what may be my favorite disc of 2008.
I don't throw out the term "musical genius" often, but Byrne and Eno both deserve it on their own merits. Eno practically invented alternative music with his early 70's solo discs (Another Green World, Here Come the Warm Jets, and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy) while David Byrne (with the Talking Heads) released 5 of the greatest albums of the 70's and 80's (three of which Brian Eno produced).
This new disc comes as a total surprise even for a fan like me. While their 1981 disc was abstract to a fault, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" is a clear, concise bit of modern alternative-pop that these two guys could create. The songs shimmer in their effortless beauty and the lyrics are some of the best of Byrne's career. Described perfectly by both artists as "electronic Gospel" music, this is music that sooths the soul and makes you think. In today's fast-food culture, that is a thing to cherish.
This disc is currently only available for purchase and is streaming on the artists' website, but will be in stores later this year. In the meantime, you can listen to it all you like below:
Jackson Browne-Time the Conqueror
One of my favorite artists is back after six years with a stellar collection of songs that look at the world and question the path we are on. Jackson has always brought political activism to his music, but has tended to be a bit overwrought when merging those politics to his music. On "Time the Conqueror", he successfully melds the two together on stellar tracks like "Drums of War" and the spot-on Katrina finger pointer "Where Were You?".
Browne has always been one of the best songwriters to describe the human condition. The feelings we all have but don't know how to express. Luckily, Jackson has not lost that gift and if anything, his years have given him a better perspective and understanding on what's really important. The highlight of the disc is the introspective "Giving That Heaven Away", in which he asks if all the ideals of the baby- boomer generation were all in vain. The answer of course is that as long as the beliefs are still felt and shared to and by others, the dream will never die.
It's simply a joy to hear new Jackson Browne music, and after all these years "Time the Conqueror" is as vital and necessary as anything in his catalog.
Lindsey Buckingham-Gift of Screws
After Lindsey's downbeat and uneven 2006 release "Under the Skin", I am thrilled to say that Lindsey Buckingham is back with a stellar collection of tunes. Like "Under the Skin", many of these songs were written a long time ago but never had a home until now. I have always thought Lindsey Buckingham is one of the oddest and most underrated songwriters out there. He often gets tagged with the "70's soft-rock" label, but this guy writes some of the most innovative and strangest material this side of Animal Collective.
Helped on several tracks by Fleetwood Mac rhythm section John McVie and Mike Fleetwood, this disc is by far the most focused and my favorite of Lindsey's solo efforts. Packed with great vocals, and the amazing guitar work that Buckingham is known for, one can only hope this late career burst of creativity lasts for a while.
Metallica you ask?? Fuck yeah I say!
Living with a metal-head for 3 years in college, I was exposed on a daily basic to their music. I knew every lyric, every drum fill, every guitar solo, and every evil head-banging moment of their material.
And you know what? I would put their first 4 studio releases up there with the best rock and roll CD's of all time. Then came the "Black Album" in 1991 when they became HUGE. Like, Michael Jackson huge. Then they lost focus releasing shitty albums and playing with symphony orchestras. I never thought I would want to hear a note of their stuff again. That was until I read about this new Rick Rubin produced disc. I read it was a return to form with the intricate, longer epic songs that they were known for.
Well, "Death Metallic" is not just a return to form, but ranks up there with the masterpieces of "Master of Puppets" or "And Justice for All". This thing is harder and louder than anything they have ever done and there is not one hint of them trying to imitate years gone by. It is quite simply the hardest and best rock and roll album I have heard since the last Nirvana disc and its restored my faith in the power and fun of hard rock.
Bravo Metallica! I didn't think you still had it in you.