Monday, December 29, 2008

Favorites of 2008

Well another year has past and this one felt like a freaking decade. Personally, this year flat out sucked but on a musical level there were some great listening moments.

I wont even pretend to tell you what the best of the year are since I surely haven't listened to everything. To be honest, I simply don't hear a lot of new artists that make me stand up and shout. I've tried to get on that hipster bandwagon of past "best new artists" (The Rapture and Wolf Parade anyone?), but found myself feeling like I'm wasting precious time. Live is just too short, you know? I tend to gravitate towards new releases from the already established artists that I know and love. I guess I'm officially an old fart.

From reading many year end picks this week, I'm seeing a lot of albums I need to at least check out since they appear on every single list (Lil Wayne, Raphael Saadiq, Santogold, Girl Talk). I'm always up for great new music and new artists and I do try and listen with fresh ears. Hearing that great new song or album that you then NEED to play for everyone you know is one of the greatest things in life.

So that was a long preface to get to some of the best stuff I heard this year (in no order). All killer, no filler as they say in the "biz". Below you will find a nice mix of one track from each. Hope you like them as much as I do.

Dave's Favs of 2008

The Black Keys-Attack and Release
These two dudes from Ohio sure know how to make a lot of noise and with help from producer Danger Mouse, made a fantastic modern gumbo of blues influenced garage rock. On previous discs, The Keys had the blues-rock thing nailed down but this is something else entirely. Of one my favorite surprises of the year.

Bob Mould-District Line
Bob Mould has long been one of those artists that seemed like he was writing specifically for me. I think I spent the most time with this disc this year not just because I needed to (based on the lyrical content), but because it's the strongest thing Bob's released since the Sugar debut.

Fleet Foxes-Self Titled
One of the most talked about bands of the year and deservedly so. This was another of my most listened to albums of the year, and not just because my nine year old daughter loves it. These guys almost single-handily renewed my faith in new music this year. Their sound is hypnotic, organic, tuneful, fresh yet timeless, and just simply gorgeous. This album already feels like a classic and I truly can't wait to hear what this band has in store in the future.

The Fireman-Electric ArgumentsThe Fireman is a project by Sir Paul McCartney and the artist known as Youth. I just got this not too long ago, but am still in amazement that this is actually Paul McCartney. Is is crazy good and really different from anything Paul has done in the past. The opening track is the easily best thing he's done since The White Album.

Brian Eno and David Byrne-Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Two of my favorite artists recorded a modern classic that gets better with each listen. I can't get over that these two guys wrote new material together in 2008 and with such high quality. The kings of alternative rock put everyone back in their places.

The Hold Steady-Stay Positive
What more can one say about this disc? This is another of the most talked about discs of the year, and if I had to pick I'd say my favorite overall. I think Craig Finn is the greatest lyricist today and finally his band gave him the music to match the words. Play this one loud and renew your faith in rock and roll!

Bob Dylan-Tell Tale Signs
Opening up the Dylan vaults once again, this magnificent release features material from 1989-2006. From the acoustic versions of "Mississippi" and "Most of the Time", to the unheard masterpiece "Red River Shore"; this release was an audible orgasm for Dylan fans.

Steve Kilbey-Painkiller

Kilbey is the lead singer/songwriter of the criminally underrated band, The Church. I'd say Painkiller is a side-project more than a "solo" disc since it is definitely a band effort. After over 25 years in a music business that has been cruel to artists like him; Kilbey has created yet another masterpiece of haunting and deceivingly melodic gems. How Kilbey keeps up this quality with zero sales or touring dollars is testament to what a great artist he is.

Whiskeytown-Strangers Almanac (Reissue)
One of my favorite albums just got that much better in 2008. Featuring a ridiculous 26 bonus tracks and pristine remastering, this reminds us of why Strangers Almanac is still the best disc in Ryan Adams huge catalog.

Other loved ones of 2008:
Jenny Lewis-Acid Tounge
Lindsey Buckingham-Gift of Screws
Sigur Ros-Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
Drive-By Truckers-Brighter Than Creations Dark
Aimee Mann-#@*@'ing Smilers
Bon Iver-For Emma, Forever Ago
Vampire Weekend-Self Titled
TV on the Radio-Dear Science
Jackson Browne-Time the Conqueror
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals-Cardinology
Metallica-Death Metallic
Lucinda Williams-Little Honey
The Cure-4:13 Dream

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Love and Theft

With Coldplay currently being sued by Joe Satriani over which song sucked first, I started thinking about what songs sound like each other and at what point does it become plagiarism. After all, there are only so many chords and melodies in modern music. If musicians can sue other artists because their songs sound alike, think of all the old Blues musicians who Jimmy Page owes money to for the entire Led Zeppelin catalog.

The most famous lawsuit I can think of was this ridiculous suit stating that George Harrison had stole the melody from The Chiffons for his "My Sweet Lord". George amazingly lost this suit.

I was listening to Sirius this morning and they played the Mellencamp craptacular song "I'm Not Running Anymore" and I starting humming the Three Dog Night classic "Shambala". While I don't like the whole lawsuit thing, I do think Three Dog Night should sue John Mellencamp for this one. Listen and tell me they don't sound like the same song. The verses, the chorus, the melody, well...everything. I'm sure Mellencamp would say he was influenced by it. Whatever. Love and Theft indeed....

Three Dog Night-Shambala

John Mellencamp-I'm Not Running Anymore

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ironic Cover Version of the Day

One of my favorite discs of 2008 is Bon Iver's (AKA-Eau Claire, Wisconsin native Justin Vernon) "For Emma, Forever Ago". If you have yet to be caught under it's spell, I suggest you find a copy as soon as possible. If you already dig Bon Iver, make sure to check out this great My Space session.

Here is Bon Iver in concert covering one of my major 80's guilty pleasures with great results.

Warning; May produce bad high-school flashbacks!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Xmas from U2

As a non-practicing Jew, I am generally a "Grinch" this time of year. But a good Xmas song has been known to get me in the "spirit" a bit. Here is a great new version of the Greg Lake staple; "I Believe in Father Christmas", performed by U2 for Red Wire (which is a cool idea and a great cause).

It's not only a cool version of the song, it proves that The Edge is one of the most talented guitarists on the planet and that Bono could sing the phone book and cause chills.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Roky Erickson

One of the things that keeps me so interested in music is that every time I think I've heard it all, I learn about an artist that I knew nothing about who just blows me away. Yesterday that was Texas psychedelic-garage-rock-cult-hero, Roky Erickson. Don't get me wrong; I have heard OF him but never knew his story nor listened to any of his music.

That all changed last night when I turned on the Sundance Channel who happened to be playing the amazing 2005 documentary on Roky called "You're Gonna Miss Me". I won't ruin the movie for those who may see it, but Roky's life may be one of the most facinating tales in music history. At times the film is very hard to watch, but in the end you are more than rewarded for doing so. His songs have influenced everyone from R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen to the Butthole Surfers and ZZ Top with a million others in between.

After spending the day cranking some of his stuff, I am now planning to get my hands on every Roky Erickson disc I can. I know I will not be disappointed.

"You're Gonna Miss Me" Trailer

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Return of Troy!

One of the greatest songs of all time has to be Sinead O'Conner's "Troy". I have heard this song of love and sorrow over a million times since it's release in 1987 and it never fails to slay me. Unfortunately, Sinead stopped singing it live one year after it's release. That was until October 24 of this year. Hear it in all it's soundboard recorded beauty below. Simply jawdropping stuff....

Sinead O'Conner-Troy (Live), 10/24/2008 Antwerp, Belgium

Comments posted by Sinead about the show:
'so, the night of the proms shows began in antwerp, belgium, on the
23rd of october in a huge venue called the sportspaleis. 16,000
capacity which, of course, made me very nervous. that was on top
of the nerves i was feeling because i was singing troy from the lion
and the cobra for the first time in twenty years. i had two days
of rehearsals with a full orchestra and everybody, robert the
conductor, franck, the orchestrator, and jan, producer/promotor, of
the proms were all very encouraging and enthusiastic and that gave me
some confidence. anyway, there should be a version of troy from
the second night for you to hear on the site. i also sang dark i
am yet lovely, or solomon, as i call it, from theology and nothing
compares 2 U, both with the orchestra. the crowds seemed to like
all three and i actually really enjoyed singing them, especially
troy, cos its been so long and i am a different person now,
obviously. another highlight of the proms for me was the fact that
there were members of the harlem gospel choir performing also and i
was totally amazed by their voices and by some of the solos they
did. its very humbling to be singing on the same show as them.
antwerp itself has some lovely buildings and i went for a stroll
around the museum of beautiful art and saw some nice work. not an
awful lot to do in the city so i have been catching up on some tv
documentaries as well as keeping up to date on the us election.'

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ryan Adams-Bedroom Jam

The ever productive Ryan Adams always has some interesting stuff going on at his blog site, including this nice little version of the "Cold Roses" ode to Jerry Garcia's guitar; "Rosebud". The audio quality is a bit rough being a webcam, but I love this tune so much.

Keep up the crazy Ryan!

ROSEBUD directors cut from Wilson Wolf on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bootleg of the day-Uncle Tupelo 9-9-91

This is something I hope to do more often. Each week, I will try and post a great live show from my collection to listen to.

The first installment is this killer live set from the amazing Uncle Tupelo. This contains the entire 9-9-91 show from Indiana and as a bonus there are two short sets from 1990. This show is a perfect example of why I love this band so much. Equal parts Black Flag and Gram Parsons. You hear two very hungry songwriters in Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy singing their guts out. Musical bliss.....

If you ever wondered what all the fuss was about with Uncle Tupelo, strap in and crank this one up loud. If you're already a fan, you will simply love this.

Uncle Tupelo: Bloomington, IN 9-9-91
Download Files Here.

Looking For a Way Out
True To Life
D. Boon
Fall Down Easy
Watch Me Fall
I Wanna Destroy You (electric)
Cold Shoulder
Punch Drunk
No Depression
John Hardy
Graveyard Shift
Still Be Around
Life Worth Livin'
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Whiskey Bottle
That Year
Streets of Bakersfield
Factory Belt
Hello There
Roll Another Number
Left In the Dark

filler: Waterloo Records, Austin, TX - 9/20/90
Screen Door
True To Life
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Factory Belt
Sin City
Graveyard Shift

filler: KCOU Studios, Columbia, MO - 5/19/90
True To Life
Watch Me Fall
Sin City
Whiskey Bottle

Monday, December 1, 2008

Genesis-The Peter Gabriel Years

Long before the band Genesis brought to mind images of Invisible Touches, puppeteering, and white guys who "can't dance"; they were progressive rock pioneers. I was flipping through the channels last week and landed on VH1 Classic which was showing a great documentary called Genesis-A History. It made me realize how great they were in those years before "ABACAB". Not to discount the work of Phil Collins; but the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis is like Woody Allen compared to Kevin Smith.

As a huge fan of Peter Gabriel's solo work, I had never been able to penetrate the music he made during those early Genesis years (1970-1975). I thought the music always sounded too busy and abstract with no melodies. I thought the words sounded too much like the ramblings of a lunatic with a fetish for gnomes and gardens.

After listening to the spectacular new remasters of these 5 early albums I realized I was actually right. However, since those years ago that I gave up on early Genesis, my ears have been opened to a host of artists that have changed how I listen and process music. Music shouldn't always be easy to digest or accessible.

Stuff like Sonic Youth, Phish, Primus, Rush, Wilco or the excellent Fleet Foxes all use elements that I hear in those early Genesis discs. I've come to realize that my favorite albums are albums that take some time to process. Albums that present new things each time you hear them.

These early Genesis albums have so much going on in the music and lyrics that it is hard to "get into" them. But on repeated listening, I began to realize how innovative and musically inviting the material is. My favorite of all of them so far is 1970's "Foxtrot" which ends with the epic 24 minute "Supper's Ready". But if you had to own just one to start with, the one to get is 1973's "Selling England by the Pound". It is a masterpiece from start to finish and showcased the band at the peek of their innovative powers.

The remastering on these discs is simply spectacular. 1970's "Foxtrot" sounds like it was recorded in the best studio in the world just yesterday. Every nuance of the music just jumps out of your speakers in brilliant clarity.

This music may be hard to get "into", but if you play these with some headphones on and get lost in the music, you will find a truly rewording experience. A sample of some of my favorite tracks are below. I hope you enjoy these as much as I've been lately.