Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Music of 2008

Best of 2008

10) Fleet Foxes—Fleet Foxes
I resisted this one for a while. All these pretty harmonies by bearded guys in flannel. Suddenly it was 1971 and everywhere I go CSN&Y’s Four Way Street is on the turntable. Not only is the album popular but it becomes a totem to girls like Lisa, a girl who drew horses all through grade school and whose preternaturally large eyes seemed always ready to get teary. “You can just hear the love in their voices,” she’d say. Asking to put on the Stones seemed like pissing in the sacristy. I just didn’t know if I wanted to revisit all that sensitivity. But Foxes wore me down. I’m not sure I hear the love in their voices, but the songs are gorgeous in a warm flannel kind of way.

9) Don’t Do Anything—Sam Phillips
Sam Phillips’ voice gets better with age: more mystery, more nuance, more economy of expression. Don’t Do Anything continues with the spare instrumentation that worked so well on 2004’s A Boot and a Shoe. Except here it she has a fuzz-drenched guitar and Jay Bellerose’s amazing percussion, which seems to include anything that can be tapped, rapped, pounded, shook or rattled.

8) At Mount Zoomer—Wolf Parade
What’s a year-end best of list without a Canadian band? Lots of synths bolstered by great crunchy guitar lines. Compelling.

7) For Emma, Forever Ago—Bon Iver
More flannel and tenderness. You don’t listen to this album so much as eavesdrop.

6) Real Animal—Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro looks back at a long, varied career and records a brilliant album that captures the sweetness and the pain of those years. This is the comeback album I was hoping for when The Boxing Mirror came out.
Live with Springsteen

5) Dear Science—TV on the Radio
Listening to Cookie Mountain was a like descending into an airless cave. Many great songs but not a trip I wanted to make that often. On Dear Science TVotR opens it up and lets the melodies out, adding touches of 70s soul and all kinds of good stuff.

4) Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.—Deerhunter
Trippy, trancey on the outside; tart and poppy on the inside.

3) Fair Ain’t Fair—Tim Fite
This guy’s an original. Just as likely to yodel as rap, Fite composes songs with the quirky catchiness and irresistibility of foul-mouthed jump rope rhymes. Friend Katie caught him live and described him as a cross between Pee Wee Herman and Tom Waits. I can see that. His site is chock full of great free tunes.
“Big Mistake” video

2) Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!—Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Barbed, literate music that still rocks.

1) The Odd Couple—Gnarls Barkley
A finer album than St. Elsewhere, but no “Crazy” blockbuster, so a lot of people overlooked it. “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” is the song of the year.

Many Happy Listens:

Flight of the Conchords—Flight of the Conchords
Fire Songs—The Watson Twins
New Amerykah: Part One—Erykah Badu
Modern Guilt—Beck

Not terrible but I expected more:

Asking for Flowers—Kathleen Edwards
Stay Positive—Hold Steady

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pitchfork Notes

Last year's Pitchfork had the narrowest demographics of any concert or public event I can remember. It seemed like the entire crowd was an army of 28-year-old baristas or vegan tattoo artists. Not only were Nan and I oddballs, but my daughters (aged 17 and 14 at the time) also missed the demographic ideal by more than a decade.

This year the crowd seemed more diverse. I saw some older folks, and some young parents brought their kids. One memorable sighting was a young dad carrying two beers while balancing a 15-month old on his arm. The kid was happily plunging his fist into one of the beers, then shaking his hand. Dad looked pained but resigned.

Later, during the middle of the set by Hold Steady, I feel a light pressure on the back on my legs. I turn around and there's a 312 beach ball wedged between my calves and the footrest of the guy's wheelchair behind me. I pick up the ball and it's vibrating. All kinds of ideas flit through my mind--the ball's deflating in a wobbly way; there's something electronic--or a bug??--inside the ball. My puzzlement must have been showing; this woman behind me puts her hand and on the ball. "It's a beach ball," she says in the kind of voice kindergarten teachers use for their behind-the-curve kids. "You throw it." She pantomimes throwing the ball in the air. Just when I decide that the ball is vibrating in response to the bass, she takes the ball from hands with an exasperated expression and slaps it into the air. She really wanted it to be a learning experience for me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Farmer's Market

Nan and I finally made it to the farmer's market. Grape tomatoes (but no vine-ripened full-sized tomatoes), gorgeous chard, radishes, all kinds of greens. I was almost as eager to scan the stuff as eat it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Next by Gnarls Barkley

Next by Gnarls Barkley

2006 --St. Elsewhere
2008--The Odd Couple
???2010--Gilligan's Island

Doesn't matter what it's called, if the quality is as high as the first two, I'm there.