Archive for the 'MUSIC' Category

My “Top Music of 2013” List

Without any further explanation or unnecessary chit-chat, here are my TOP ALBUMS OF 2013:

ImageArcade Fire, Reflektor
Any follow-up to an “album of the year” release, such as Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” a few years ago, is likely to face either overwhelming praise, or more likely undue criticism.  Showing their mettle, however, Arcade Fire did what any great band ought to do: release an album that they enjoy.  They’re clearly in this as musicians and artists first — not for gaining notoriety, fame, and so forth.  It begs the question, though….is Reflektor as good as their last album?  Probably not.  But there are a lot of great songs on this record, and it is very clearly an Arcade Fire album.  They made the record that they wanted to, and I applaud them for that.  Notable favorite tracks:  Reflektor and We Exist

ImageThe Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
Another band following-up an incredible smash-hit album, The Civil Wars hit some interesting speed bumps.  Although the full story is not really known, there has evidently been some disagreement between Joy and John Paul.  They speak to each other rarely, if at all, which casts an interesting cloud over this entire album.  It feels sad.  Even the more upbeat songs feel somewhat forced, and it has a way of breaking your heart when you listen to it.  I’d be curious to know if folks who do not know the backstory get the same vibe.  I’m guessing they would.  Regardless, this album is wonderfully and beautifully made.  Compared to their last album, it feels less “catchy” from beginning to end, if you ask me, but is *technically* even more mature and fascinating.  Notable favorite tracks:  Dust To Dust and From This Valley.

ImageThe Dear Hunter, Migrant
This band continues to live under the radar, as far as I can tell, and I’m not really sure why.  My wife and I saw them open for one of our favorite bands, mewithoutYou, a few years ago, and we were blown away.  I had to grab their album.  Since that time, they’ve released a handful of records, including Migrant earlier this year.  It sounds less like a stage musical than my previous favorite of theirs, Act III, but there is a genius to this album that shows how talented their primary singer/songwriter really is.  They manage to write songs with an undeniable maturity, including lyrics that come across as meaningful without being preachy.  I love to see some real success happen for this band.  Notable favorite tracks: Whisper and Shame.

ImageEditors, The Weight Of Your Love
Given their last album, that I absolutely loathed, I was about ready to write these guys off.  Maybe a lot of folks felt that way, or maybe they got the hint that their last album was lacking in a number of ways, but the Editors of old have returned with “The Weight Of Your Love”, and it sounds great.  Evidently the line-up of the band has changed since their last release, but I’m not sure I would’ve noticed.  The lead singer’s voice is so unique, I think a backing polka band would still sound like an Editors album.  I mean that in a good way.  Whatever the recipe is, I hope it continues.  This is a great album.  Notable favorite tracks: Sugar and The Phone Book.

ImageLorde, Pure Heroine
I’m reluctant to admit that I only found this album about two weeks ago, but whatever……I really like it a lot.  I also can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I enjoy so much.  It feels a void, I suppose, of artists like Lana Del Rey (whom I also enjoy) that tend toward a style of music that I really don’t listen to.  It feels like hip-pop, but with a dark alternative twist.  Regardless, there is a simplicity to this album that I respect.  The music seems to fill only 40% of the speakers, but wonderful melodies fill up the rest.  It’s catchy, enjoyable, and even fun.  I don’t lyrically relate to a teenager from New Zealand, but she writes better than many artists I’ve heard.  Notable favorite tracks: Ribs and Buzzcut Season.

ImageThe National, Trouble Will Find Me
Although I was looking forward to a new album from The National, my expectations were fairly low.  Sure it’d be good, but it would par-for-the-course for this great band.  I was both wrong and right.  “Trouble Will Find Me” took me by surprise by being immediately incredible, and has since then continued to grow on me even more.  It’s at times heart-wrenching, haunting, foot-tapping, and even laughable.  For an even better experience, put on a pair of good headphones and enjoy the sonic bliss.  Want higher praise that that?  My Mom has since declared this as a “second favorite album of all time” for her — just after U2’s “The Joshua Tree”.  High praise indeed!  Notable favorite tracks:  Demons and Don’t Swallow The Cap.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS
Normally I’d write a small something for each of these albums, but I can lump them all together, in this case.  Each of these releases was highly anticipated for me, and instead became a huge let down.  Are they horrible?  No, not really, but they’re not very good either. 

The Head And The Heart, Let’s Be Still

Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You

Phoenix, Bankrupt!

My “Top Music of 2012” List

Here it is…my top music list for 2012.  Enjoy!

Of Monsters And Men, My Head Is An Animal
I really wish I could remember how I heard about this band.  I don’t listen to the radio, watch MTV (as if it even had music), and I don’t use radio-like services such as Spotify, Pandora, etc..  It must’ve been word of mouth, I guess, but I’m glad it happened!  They strike me as a cross between the Sugarcubes (do all Icelandic females sing like that?) and Mumford & Sons.  It’s peppy, fun, artistic, clean, and just very enjoyable.  Definitely one of my top albums for the year.

Lana Del Rey, Born To Die
So…why on earth is Lana Del Rey on my top music list for 2012?  What can I say – I like this album.  I knew nothing about her when I saw this album advertised in the window of my local Easy Street Records shop.  The cover intrigued me, and I definitely expected something…well…different, which it certainly is.  But I liked what I heard, I enjoy her voice, and it was a nice segue from my usual musical tastes.  It was a couple of weeks later that I heard gripes about her as a person, about her boring performances, and so on.  No matter.  I was sticking to my guns, and it is definitely a favorite of mine album for this year. 
(NOTE: this is not a “clean” album, for those who care)

Metric, Synthetica
This is one of those artists that I’ve listened to from the sidelines.  I’m neither disinterested, nor am I a rabid fan.  I like their music, and Synthetica continues that trend for me.  It doesn’t sound as ‘genius’ as their previous release, Fantasies, but others may disagree.  They simply put out solid music, and I wonder why this band isn’t a worldwide phenomena.

mewithoutYou, Ten Stories
It was with some trepidation that I awaited the release of mewithoutYou’s newest album, Ten Stories.  Although I enjoyed much of their previous album, It’s All Crazy!, it felt like a step backward to me – and I do consider myself to be a fairly rabid fan of this band.  Ten Stories doesn’t quite harken back to their 2nd and 3rd albums (my favorites), but it does showcase how talented this band is – both as a group, and as individual musicians.  In some ways, this may be their most “commercially plausible” album, but as always it will be heard by far too few.

Mumford & Sons, Babel
It’s no secret that Mumford & Sons’ previous release, Sigh No More, was a surprise commercial smash hit.  Although their sound is polarizing to some, this group appeared to be able to do no wrong.  That usually makes for a worrisome sophomore release, which often makes or breaks a band.  When I heard the first single from Babel, I wasn’t sure what to think: it sounded good, but it sounded “safe” – just more of the same.  Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Truth be told, if you didn’t like Mumford before this latest album, this one isn’t going to sway you.  If you were already a fan, however, you’ll find new genius with Babel.  It’s just a tremendous album from a very talented group of guys.

Silversun Pickups, Neck of the Woods
Very few bands had as high of expectations with me as did the Silversun Pickups.  Their previous release, Swoon, wasn’t just a favorite from that release year, it was actually a favorite of mine for that decade.  Yeah…a lot to live up to.  Thankfully, Neck of the Woods does not fail to impress.  It’s definitely the signature Silversun Pickups sound, but with a darker (perhaps more electronic) flavor.  If Swoon was an instant classic to my ears, then Neck of the Woods was a bit of a slow burn that eventually flared up.  Seeing them in concert earlier this year was just icing on the cake!

The Shins, Port of Morrow
I don’t necessarily set out to have an “album of the year”, per se, but the thought crosses my mind.  Some years, such as last year’s favorite Love & War & the Sea Inbetween by Josh Garrels, are obvious choices for me.  Other years are more difficult.  This year, however, I think I can honestly say that Port of Morrow by The Shins is my absolute top pick for the year.  Having already perused several “top albums of the year” lists for 2012, I’ve already seen this album on many of them.  It’s just very, very good.  But it was also a bit of an unknown quantity upon initial release, seeing as this is a completely new line-up of musicians, save for the primary singer/songwriter, James Mercer.  Their previous release, Wincing The Night Away, is another favorite album of mine, but fans of that album may not necessarily enjoy this one in the same way.  Port of Morrow is decidedly less strange, less experimental-sounding, and (in many ways) more commercially acceptable – but not in a “these guys sold out” sort of way.  Not at all.  It’s just great song writing, and the track “Bait & Switch” is probably one of my favorite Shins songs ever.  What really put it over the top for me, though, was a realization that I felt happy after listening to it – almost like slipping on a favorite sweatshirt or pair of slippers.  It has a vibe that’s difficult to find these days.  Great work!

                                           – HONORABLE MENTIONS - 

Starflyer 59, IAMACEO
Nothing ground-breaking here.  Just classic, very good Starflyer, though I probably prefer My Island or Changing Of The Guard a bit more.

Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel
As a self-proclaimed Fiona Apple fan, I was anxiously awaiting her new album, and I was not disappointed.  I also wasn’t totally blown away either.  The Idler Wheel is probably her strangest song writing to date, but there’s a lot to enjoy on this release.

Atlas Genius, Through the Glass (EP)
We first heard about these guys as they were opening up for Silversun Pickups during their most recent tour through Seattle.  But we really liked what we heard, and subsequently grabbed their EP, Through The Glass.  Definitely anxious to hear their full release, whenever that comes out.

Josh Garrels, Love & War – B Sides and Remixes
I can’t say that remixes and b-sides typically excite me much, but Love & War & the Sea Inbetween was such a powerful album for me last year, I jumped at the chance to grab more of this material.  What can I say?  The remixes are great, and the b-sides – songs left off of last year’s album – are as powerful as ever.   Will it make new Josh Garrels fans?  Probably not, but it certainly rewards the fan base he already has.

Thanks for reading.

My “Top Music of 2011” List

Here you are: my list of the Top Music of 2011…and in no particular order, save for one.  You’ll know it when you get there.

The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow
This album came completely out of left field for me.  Someone (somewhere) mentioned it — probably on Facebook — and the “duet” factor sounded interesting.  I listened to an early release of the title track, Barton Hollow, and it sounded great to me, so I waited patiently for the full release.  Strangely enough, the title track (and first single) is not necessarily representative of the rest of the album, which may put some folks off.  In fact, the remainder of the album is considerably more mellow.  That said, this is a great album if you’ll give it some time.  Would I like to hear more of their upbeat stuff?  Sure.  Maybe next time.  But this is definitely one of the best albums to have been released this year.

Death Cab For Cutie, Codes & Keys
Let me be clear on this point: I’m not really a fan of Death Cab For Cutie.  I have nothing against them, of course, I’m just not part of their fan base.  Still, I heard the first single from this album, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I decided that the rest of the album needed a good listen-thru, and I’m glad I did.  It just sounds like typical “Death Cab” stuff, if you ask me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.  Is it ground-breaking?  Not really.  But it is very good.  Funny thing is… I don’t feel like Death Cab ever really writes any choruses into their songs – it’s just one verse after another.  Good stuff, though, and very enjoyable to listen to.

The Decemberists, The King Is Dead
This album was released very early in 2011, so it’s likely to be overlooked by some.  That said, it was also the first album of the year to truly capture my attention – and I’m not necessarily a long-time listener of The Decemberists.  What can I really say about this album, though?  It’s just a strong release thru and thru.  Some favorites include: “Dear Avery” and “This Is Why We Fight”.


Jane’s Addiction
, The Great Escape Artist

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be including a Jane’s Addiction album on my Top Music of 2011 list.  It seemed impossible, but here it is.  For some background, I’ve been a long-time Jane’s Addiction fan – dating back to their “Nothing’s Shocking” release – but their most recent releases have not necessarily captivated me.  Good?  Yes.  Great?  Not necessarily.  So, it was with some skepticism that I grabbed The Great Escape Artist and gave it a listen.  (I’m so happy for subscription music services!)  Quite simply, I was blown away.  Perry Farrell sounds great, the songwriting is top-notch, and (surprisingly) the album is very clean.  On the downside?  It’s probably one of the worst album covers I’ve seen in a long, long time…

Manchester Orchestra, Simple Math
Having arrived late-to-the-game with Manchester Orchestra, I was very much looking forward to their latest release, Simple Math, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I easily consider this to be their strongest album yet.  It seems that Manchester Orchestra is growing up in many ways: lyrically, most of all, but also musically.  There is still an experimental/indie vibe to their songwriting, but it totally works.  Some personal favorite tracks include: “Simple Math”, “Apprehension” and “April Fool”.  Just a solid album.

Josh Garrels, Love & War & The Sea In Between
I wouldn’t normally choose a “best album of the year”, but in this case I feel absolutely compelled to name one: Josh Garrels’ “Love & War & The Sea In Between”.  There is no doubt in my mind.  What started as a mere suggestion from a friend of mine (thanks, Tim!) was followed up by an email from NoiseTrade.com with a link to this album.  I figured that I might as well.  The first song caught me off-guard.  It was more haunting and mellow that I figured it would be.  It also sounded a lot like Damien Jurado, which wasn’t a bad thing in my book – but could certainly be polarizing to some.  By the end of the third song, I was absolutely sold…and hooked.  This is not only the most solid album I’ve heard all year, it’s probably one of the best I’ve ever heard.  Seriously.  Even better?  You fall in love with the first half of the album, and then quickly realize you’ve only partially tapped the beauty of this release.  Your favorite tracks shift on a daily or weekly basis.  But nothing has struck me more about this album than the lyrics have.  Beautiful.  Challenging.  Heart-wrenching.  Encouraging.  And everything in-between.  If you’re still reading this paragraph and have not yet downloaded this album, then do yourself a favor: head over to NoiseTrade.com and download it for free.  You can thank me later.  And thank you, Josh Garrels, for what is easily the best album I’ve heard in years…

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Mutemath, Odd Soul
A very solid release from Mutemath, and I definitely prefer this to their last one.  Still, not as strong as their self-titled album.  I’d like to see the old spark rekindled with these guys.

The Dear Hunter, The Color Spectrum
Having first heard them when I saw them open for mewithoutYou, I was very impressed.  Their last album, Act III, is one of my recent favorites.  Still, this latest release is actually a combination of nine EPs that they released in 2011.  It may be a great album, but I just can’t make it thru it the entire way…

Switchfoot, Vice Verses
Just a great album all-around.  Not mind-blowing, necessarily, but very good.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS

Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
I’m actually a bit of a Coldplay fan, so I was very much looking forward to their latest release, Mylo Xyloto.  I heard a few early tracks and I began to get concerned.  Then I heard the full-release, and…well…I basically had no desire to listen through it again.  That’s a bad sign.  Perhaps in a few months it’ll “click” with me, but I doubt it.  I don’t know what happened here…

Lyrics o’ the day: Josh Garrels, “Revelator”

It’s difficult to relay *exactly* what type of impact the latest album from Josh Garrels has had on me.  I would say the best word to describe it is “profound”, and I don’t use that word lightly. 

I’m rarely moved by new artists musically, and much less often moved by them lyrically.  Almost never, in fact.  I am *extremely* critical of lyrical content, which is a frustrating bent to have.  That said, finding an artist that moves me musically, vocally and lyrically nearly never happens.  I was moved to the point of tears on several occasions.  Truly.

Up until a couple of months ago, Josh Garrels was absolutely unknown to me.  While working alongside a friend that I attend church with, the conversation turned to music.  I was surprised to find that he and I had such similar musical tastes.  As we discussed “what artists or albums were currently floating our respective boats”, he mentioned a guy named Josh Garrels that had a powerful mix of lyrical content, vocals, and musical aptitude.  I told him that I would have to check it out, which typically translates to “I’ll forget about it within 24 hours or so”.

Enter NoiseTrade.com

A couple of days later, I received an email from the fine folks at NoiseTrade.com.  As it so happened, the artist spotlight was on the newest release from Josh Garrels, “Love & War & The Sea In Between”.  I took the hint, downloaded the album, and began to listen.

Wow. 

Here’s a link to one of my favorite tracks.  Lyrics below.

Had a dream I was alone
A vast expanse of complete unknown
Sea of glass so clear it shown,
Like gold

Then a voice like thunder clapped,
As a dead man I collapsed
I am the first, I am the last,
Now rise my son

Then behold ten thousand kings,
And every creature worshipping
Every eye was on one thing,
One man

He’s like a lion like a lamb,
As though slain he holds the plan
To make war and peace with man,
And reign on earth

Holy, Holy, is the One,
Who was and is, and is to come
In a robe as red as blood,
He comes forth

Ride like lightning in the sky,
Upon the war horse he draws nigh,
The same one we crucified,
Will come again

I’m not just impressed by this album, I’m actually thankful for it.

“Thank you, Josh Garrels, for using the gifts you’ve been given in such a powerful, obedient way.  Consider me blessed.”

Now Playing: February 2010

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a “Now Playing” update.  Part of that is just laziness, of course, but also that two posts at the end of 2009 were especially demanding: “Top Music of the Decade” and “Top Music of 2009”.  Check those out, if you haven’t already.

Now… to the latest albums/artists that I’ve been listening to…

  • The Avett Brothers, “I And Love And You
    • I actually discovered this album at the end of last year, but didn’t get around to adding it to my Now Playing list.  In all honesty, it probably should’ve been on my “Top Music of 2009” list, but at that point I hadn’t given it enough of a listen.  It’s very good, though.  Really, really good, in fact.  If you’re a fan of a little twang, great melodies, and moving music, give this album a listen.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
  • Phoenix, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
    • I had quite literally never heard of this artist until this past December – and then I was hit by them (meaning it was “recommended” to me) from several friends.  I wasn’t initially impressed, but it’s grown on me.  A LOT.  This is a fun band and a fun album.  Not exactly retro, but certainly pointed in that direction.  I seem to enjoy this album more and more with each listen, so it probably should’ve ended up on my “Top 2009” albums as well.  What’cha gonna do?!  Grab it.
  • The Standard, “Swimmer” and “Albatross
    • Hailing from Portland, OR, this is an incredibly moody band with a sound that tends to envelope you.  Very musical, and somewhat dark.  Both albums are great, but go with their latest, “Swimmer”, for a more immediate feel for their style.
  • David Bazan, “Curse Your Branches”
    • My personal “David Bazan” library pretty much started/stopped with “Hard To Find A Friend”, but this album has changed that.  The first few songs in particular are flat-out amazing, with the rest of the album dragging a bit (for me).  Still, great work from Mr. Bazan that really deserves a lot of praise.
  • Spoon, “Transference
    • The follow-up album to “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga”, one of my “Top Music of the Decade” choices, was either going to one-up their last release, or fall short.  Commercially-speaking, this album falls short of the pop-minded hooks found in “Ga” and really hearkens back to earlier releases like “Gimme Fiction” or “Kill The Moonlight”.  What I mean is that this album is somewhat less approachable, and takes a bit longer to grow on you.  It’s almost as if Spoon was trying to shed some of their fair-weather fans.  Hard to say.  When it comes down to it, though, this album has some real gems for those willing to dig.
  • Fair, “Disappearing World
    • Several years in the making, the latest release from Fair has been hotly anticipated by many fans.  Quite honestly, it’s not entirely what I was expecting.  Whereas their first album bordered on dark and moody at times, this album is bent much more toward a vocal-driven, pop sound that might throw a few people at first.  It is *very* much the “Fair” sound, of course, but with a pep to it that is a different direction from the first album.  So far, it hasn’t been as “immediately accessible” to me, but some of my favorite albums have been that way.  That said, “sonically” this album is incredible – from the piano, to the drums, to the mixdown.  Amazing.
  • Manchester Orchestra, “I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child
    • I found their latest release, “Mean Everything To Nothing”, late last year, but never delved any further into their catalog.  Upon repeated suggestion from friends that I respect musically, I wandered my way into this album, which has grown on me considerably over the past couple of months.  Not so much a “rock your socks off” album, it really works well for those willing to put on a good pair of headphones and listen closely.  Not entirely sure about all of the lyrics, but there is a subtle genius to this album that is difficult to dismiss.
  • John Davis, “John Davis
    • Formerly (and now “currently”) of Superdrag fame, John Davis released this solo album back in 2005.  It’s taken me this long to grab a copy for myself and enjoy the genius here, of which there is plenty.  This is almost a modern day version of a Larry Norman album, for those familiar with his stuff:  too liberal for the conservatives, and too conservative for the liberals.  That usually means it’s just perfect, and this album nearly is.  Grab it!
  • The Broken West, “Now Or Heaven
    • Found via another Zune Marketplace rabbit trail, The Broken West is one of those bands that has seemed to completely fly under the radar.  It’s too bad, too, because “Now Or Heaven” is one of the best albums I’ve heard in quite awhile.  Not sure who to compare them too, other than a modern day Gin Blossoms – and I mean that in a good way.  Very talented, great vocal hooks, and likely to go over the head of most folks.  Definitely worth grabbing, though.

Until next time… thanks for reading.

My “Top Music of the Decade” List

(originally posted at Turn Off The Radio)

It’s really, really difficult to look back over the past 10 years and pick out a handful of albums that you would consider the “best”.  Picking out influential albums isn’t that hard, to be honest, but getting them into some sort of order is.  There’s also a tendency, perhaps, to give more weight to recent releases, since they’re more fresh in your memory.

Looking back over this past decade, I realized that this has been a very influential time for me, musically speaking.  It’s strange, because although I’ve been doing a lot less musically (personally) than the previous decade, my musical tastes have grown up in a number of ways – some of them quite surprising to me. 

The biggest change has definitely been my willingness to open up to new & different artists.  I owe much of this to “life’s crazy (and at times unfortunate) events”, as well as the guys in This Diminishing West, who stretched me musically.  More recently, my switch to subscription-based music (via Zune Pass) has blown my musical library wide open, which has really been a lot of fun.

All that said, I’ve attempted to list (with reasonable accuracy) my Top 15 Albums of the Decade.  A month earlier, this list may have looked a bit different.  A year earlier, it certainly would’ve, but what’re you gonna do.  It is what it is.

Hope you enjoy it.

______________________________________________________________
My Top 15 Albums | 2000 – 2009

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#15:  Muse, Absolution

I can thank the guys in This Diminishing West for showing me the door to Muse.  This is an absolutely awesome album, and I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing these guys (live!) in a few months.

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#14:  16 Horsepower, Secret South

I’m guessing that this album didn’t make a lot of “top albums of the decade” lists, but it should have.  Moody.  Unique.  Lyrically incredible.  A band that deserved a lot more credit than it ever received.

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#13: Editors, An End Has A Start

My good friend Ken helped me discover Editors a few years ago with their album The Back Room.  Their follow-up album (and subsequent) tour was even better!  Definitely a top album of the decade for me.

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#12: Switchfoot, The Beautiful Letdown

Talk about an album (and band!) that I never expected or wanted to like, but here they are.  Previous to this album, I didn’t want to touch these guys with a 10-foot pole, but something changed – with both them and me.  First, this album is far more mature than their previous releases.  In fact, it’s an incredible album.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I allowed myself to “like an artist that I didn’t want to like”.  The title track remains one of my faves.

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#11: The Fire Theft, The Fire Theft

Strangely enough, it was The Fire Theft that finally got me to appreciate Sunny Day Real Estate.  I wish they’d kept on as a band, though, ‘cause this album is awesome.

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#10: Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American

It was somewhere around our recording sessions for The Waiting Room that I discovered Jimmy Eat World.  Late to the party, I know.  This album was, in my opinion, pulled off masterfully.  It’s rockin’, smart, and never cliche.

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#9: Radiohead, In Rainbows

As I’ve mentioned before, I was really a late-comer to the Radiohead fan club.  Actually, I’m not sure I’m entirely a fan of theirs, but this album is incredible.  Yes, I’ve heard their previous albums.  Yes, those albums are good.  But, there is something about In Rainbows that captured my attenion.

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#8: Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

It was actually a local radio station that introduced me to Spoon.  Their track, The Underdog, received some significant airplay, but what really caught my ear was how much it sounded like Billy Joel on the vocals.  Almost jokingly, I decided to listen to the rest of the album… and I’m sincerely glad that I did.

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#7: Sunny Day Real Estate, The Rising Tide

Did I mention that I wasn’t really much of a Sunny Day fan?  In fact, to the hardcore & faithful fans, I’m still not.  In my opinion, though, this band got better with each album – culminating with the release of The Rising Tide.  Without a doubt, some of Jeremy’s best work.

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#6: Neko Case, Middle Cyclone

Here’s a case in point where a recent addition to my musical catalog could possibly be unfairly high on my “best of the decade” list, but I don’t think so.  This was not only my 2nd favorite album of 2009, it’s an absolute and immediate classic to me.  Fox Confessor Brings The Flood and Blacklisted are both equally incredible albums.

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#5: Silversun Pickups, Swoon

Also my pick for “favorite album of 2009”, Swoon is a truly wonderful album.  Is it better than Carnavas?  In my book, yes, but they’re both a triumph.  Looking forward to seeing these guys “live”!

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#4: Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine

Fiona’s previous release, When The Pawn…, was a tough act to follow, but I believe that Extraordinary Machine more than rose to the challenge – especially in regards to album continuity and “sonic wonderment”.  I just don’t seem to get tired of this album.

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#3: Coldplay, X&Y

Here’s another band that I was late-to-the-game with:  Coldplay.  Although X&Y is panned as a “commercial sell-out” by some, I find this album to be incredible.  It’s not just the album, though, it was the motif around it – dark album artwork, mysterious, and slightly unapproachable.  It was the right album at the right time for these guys, and I find it truly enjoyable. 

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#2: meWithoutYou, Brother, Sister (tie with Catch For Us The Foxes)

Not just one of my favorite albums of the decade, this is without a doubt one of my favorite bands of the past 10 years.  I found these guys right away, and fell in love with A>B Life, which failed to impress most people I showed it too.  I felt alone in my admiration, but I stuck to my guns.  Their follow-up release, Catch For Us The Foxes, was a smart departure from their first album, and a step in the right direction.  It challenged me, though, and I initially thought it was a bomb.  The same went for Brother, Sister, which took some listening to for me to thoroughly enjoy.  Finally, though, my love for this band won out.  These two albums are most definitely favorites of this decade.

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#1: Over The Rhine, Ohio

My absolute favorite album of the decade… from Over The Rhine?  REALLY?  You know it.  Heck!  I’ve been listening to (and loving) Over The Rhine since 1993.  Although I know that Ohio was the album that nearly ripped them apart, the genius is unmistakable.  This is their very best work – heart & soul present in spades – with Drunkard’s Prayer a close second.  It’s beautiful, heart-wrenching, emotional, humorous, and entirely wonderful.  The fact that it’s a double-album only makes it that much better.  My personal favorite tracks are: Ohio, Suitcase, Show Me, and Changes Come.  So powerful…and my choice for the best album of the decade.

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There you have it, folks.  Many thanks to Alan P. for the challenge to dream up this list.  If you have the time, check out his faves of the decade.  We’re like musical twins separated at birth… mostly 🙂

2009… signing off.

Now Playing: September 2009

Running behind on this one, so let me get right down to bid-ness…

  • MuteMath, “Armistice
    • Ever since discovering their very good self-titled album a few years back, I’ve been anxiously awaiting what a follow-up release from them would sound like – and now I know.  “Armistice” was described by the band as an album that would “embarrass the first record”.  A tall order, to be certain, and though a few songs are very good, the album is (as a whole) not particularly enticing to me.  I expected something a bit more “fresh”, or at least the last album amped up by a factor of "10”, but neither is true, in my opinion.
  • Arctic Monkeys, “Humbug
    • I’ve not really been a big fan of the Arctic Monkeys, but when a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of The Last Shadow Puppets – a side project – I thought I’d give them more of a listen.  I’m glad I did.  “Humbug” is a very good album, and starts off particularly well.  Their sound rarely deviates from itself very much, which may (or may not) be your thing, but there’s a lot here to enjoy.
  • Soulsavers, “Broken
    • I’m pretty much a sucker for anything Mark Lanegan related.  I like his solo stuff, Screaming Trees stuff (of course!), side projects, and whatever else.  A co-worker pointed out Soulsavers to me, which I was surprisingly unfamiliar with.  Very mellow stuff.  Dark, brooding, and so on.  To be honest, I’m not even through the entire album yet, but if “Bubblegum” or Lanegan’s solo stuff float your boat, you’ll probably enjoy Soulsavers too.
  • Katie Todd, “Changing Faces
    • Via a “Neko Case” station on Pandora, I stumbled across Katie Todd (or Katie Todd Band) and liked what I heard.  With some jazzy overtones and pop sensibilities, I would liken Katie Todd to artists such as Feist or K T Tunstall, both of whom I like.  Katie has a slightly unusual voice, though, which will either endear you to her style, or turn you away.  I’m diggin’ it.
  • Muse, “The Resistance
    • Another follow-up album that I was very much looking forward to.  Muse has an epic, “stadium rock” type sound that is somewhere between Radiohead and Queen.  To find out that this band is merely a trio almost boggles the mind – they are so incredibly talented.  All that said, “The Resistance” has failed to capture my attention.  It’s not bad, per se, but it doesn’t come across as anything new either.  More of the same, I suppose, which will be perfect for the hardcore Muse fans.
  • Gin Blossoms, “New Miserable Experience
    • Talk about digging up a relic, this album was released the same year that I graduated high school – back in 1992.  I remember my buddy, Troy, spinning this disc quite a bit, but I never latched on to it myself.  You know what, though?  This is a very good album.  Incredibly catchy tunes, good song writing, and it has really stood the test of time after 17 years!  The singer was clearly genius and troubled.  His addiction comes through loud and clear over the course of this album, but if you don’t let that weigh you down, this is really worth a look (or re-look, for those old fans).
  • Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, “Furnace Room Lullaby
    • I’ve been enjoying Neko Case’s music this year – especially her most recent release, “Middle Cyclone”.  “Furnace Room Lullaby” is an older album of hers, though – nearly a decade old now (2000).  While it is clearly Neko Case-styled music, it has more twang than her more recent stuff, so it took a bit longer to grow on me.  It’s a great album, though, with the title track being one of my favorites.
  • The Devil Makes Three, “Longjohns, Boots, And A Belt
    • One of my co-workers flipped this album my way a few years back.  If a bluegrass/rockabilly vibe is your thing, then check out The Devil Makes Three.  Very good stuff.