Friday, December 05, 2008

Best of 2008 Countdown, Part 2

A couple things before I jump back into the Best of 2008 Countdown:

1) I went and saw 'Twilight' yesterday afternoon and had forgotten how awkward, brooding, horny, and angst-ridden high schoolers were. But in terms of music there were a couple great songs at the tail end of the movie. When Bella is dancing at prom with Edward in the Christmas light laden gazebo Iron & Wine's "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" from The Shepherd's Dog is playing. It's a very sweet and tender song, but when you read the lyrics it's a somewhat curious choice. It would seem to have dual themes of the degradation of the American Dream as well as a person's loss of innocence. The second meaning totally makes sense as Bella has now entered a different world with Edward. The other song was "15 Step" off In Rainbows by Radiohead that lead into the end credits, which was another pleasant surprise.

2) Let me clarify some of my thoughts on how the art of constructing an ALBUM has been mostly lost. We are firmly in the digital age of music. I will probably see the end of CDs in my lifetime. Things obviously initially changed with the original Napster, and the ability to find obscure songs. Then with the advent of the iTunes store in 2003 you could download only the tracks you wanted from an album. This could have taken music in two directions; force artists to make better albums and get people to download them in their entirety, OR push for exceptional singles and try to sell as many of them as possible while disregarding how they fit into a larger whole. This is just my opinion on (probably) a complex issue. But most mainstream artists went down the road of killer singles. All of this hasn't been helped by the Death of Radio. That is a whole other topic, but I don't even listen to the radio unless I've forgotten to take my iPod into the car. While many singles have been exceptional, what are you left with after hearing the same song 100s of times? On a good album you have the luxury of exploring 40 - 60min of music not the same 3 - 5min. Thus, it is less likely you'll reach the "end". Alright, enough of that for today, how about praising a couple ladies?

She & Him - Volume 1 (Merge)

I was pretty excited about the pairing of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel from the get-go. Possibly because I had heard Zooey sing live a couple years before this project came to light and was impressed that she was above average. This album was universally given a "this is quite good" review, and in the neighborhood of 7/10 if you had to assign a number to it. Recently, Paste Magazine named it their #1 Album of the Year. That is probably the highest praise it has received. My highest praise is that She & Him's music sounds timeless through and through.

"You Really Gotta Hold On Me" (Live @ KCRW 1/6/08)

Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue (WBR)

I tend to write about music I love. I don't like to waste my time on artists or albums that don't catch my fancy. What does this have to do with Jenny Lewis? Well, Jenny Lewis' formal solo debut is one of my favorites from this year and another album I wrote about upon its release a few months ago. You'll also notice all the albums I've mentioned so far I've mentioned here before. Thankfully, Acid Tongue still holds up a few months later. I'm not sure if it will make more respected Best of 2008 lists, but it stands out among my personal "Chicks That Rock" category.

"Jack Killed Mom"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Best of 2008 Countdown, Part 1

Over the course of the next few days (maybe weeks) I'm going to start briefly listing my thoughts for the Best ALBUMS of 2008. I stress the word "album" because I believe the art of making a complete album has nearly died. The number of albums that are worthy of repeat listens from front to back are increasingly few and far between. I don't expect each track to be a single, but a few gems around a mound of crap doesn't cut it for me.

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (Sub-Pop)

I previously wrote how excited I was after listening to this self-titled debut back in May. Since then, nothing has changed in my mind. On the other hand the band's profile has risen significantly. Glowing reviews abound for the debut album, and is already on most people's year-end lists. It's a complete album that shows range on a multitude of levels. I honestly don't know how many times I've listened to the album, but it now feels familiar like it's been around for more than a number of months.

"Quiet Houses"

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)

Another artist that I wrote about back in May, it's finally the right time of year to listen to Bon Iver's exceptional debut. It was written and recorded in a cabin in the winter months, and although I'm in sunny L.A. I kind of wish I could listen to this on a mellow night with a burning fire someplace (not a wildfire, of course). This will be required listening for many Fall and Winters to come.

"Wisconsin" (iTunes-only bonus track)