Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hopedaddy's Best of 2008: Volume 8 in a Series

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Disc One

1. What Would Joe Boxleitner!, “When the Haaaammond is Rrrrockin,” (Unreleased).  From one band to another, a glowing endorsement of the next song.

2. The Raconteurs, “Old Enough,” Consolers of the Lonely.  The second project from this “supergroup,” showing that Jack White’s presence doesn’t make every Racs song sound like just another White Stripes tune.

3. Alejandro Escovedo, “Always a Friend,” Real Animal.  Career-defining (literally!) record from St. Alejandro, who sings his rock and roll biography, punk to Americana, song-by-song.

4. Damien Jurado, “Go First,” Caught in the Trees.  With this project, Jurado doesn’t turn down the mopeyness—he amps it up, Crazy Horse style, stomping along, building into full throttle . . . “You can go first, you’re making me nervous with how you leave me here.”

5. David Byrne & Brian Eno, “Strange Overtones,” Everything that Happens Will Happen Today.  A great groove from the first project in over twenty-five years from Talking Heads frontman Byrne and ambient pioneer Eno.

6. Bon Iver, “Skinny Love,” For Emma, Forever Ago.  Justin Vernon lost his band and disappeared to the northwoods of Wisconsin for a “good winter,” writing and recording the foundation of a beautiful and haunting record that tops many of this year’s “Best of” lists.

7. Vampire Weekend, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” Vampire Weekend.  Perhaps the most hyped band all year, I tried to hate this release but eventually caught the fever.  Paul Simon comparisons?  I still don’t get it.

8. Mates of State, “The Re-Arranger,” Re-Arrange Us.  Perfect pop from husband and wife Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, a spun-too-much entry on Hopedaddy’s FUV Morning Music Mix.  “Love loud, don’t lose loud . . .”

9. Bell X1, “Rocky Took a Lover,” Flock.  The 17th band out of Ireland to be heralded as the “Next U2,” Bell X1 may have the goods to pull it off.  Despite a big push, this great record flew under the radar this year, never quite getting the accolades it deserves.

10. Matthew Ryan, “American Dirt,” Matthew Ryan Vs. the Silver State.  Appearance #3 on Hopedaddy year-ends for this Tennessee-based straight-ahead singer/songwriter.  Gravel-voiced beauty.

11. Elbow, “The Bones of You,” The Seldom Seen Kid.  Horns, electronics, and walls of guitars make for a glorious sonic landscape . . . and the best imitation of Peter Gabriel I’ve ever heard!

12. Ben Sollee, “A Change is Gonna Come,” Learning to Bend.  ¼ of the Abigail Washburn quartet, soulful singer/ songwriter Sollee is a clever “Andrew Bird of the Cello.”  Here, presumably in honor of the year, he takes (permissible) lyrical liberties with the Sam Cooke classic.

13. Chris Thile/Punch Brothers, “Punch Bowl,” Punch Brothers Punch.  Chris Thile breaks free of the trappings of his pop-tinged Nickel Creek, as Thile & Co. take bluegrass soaring in all directions

14. AA Bondy, “World Without End,” American Hearts.  We stumbled across a set from Gus Bondy behind a pizza joint on a hot Austin afternoon at SxSW.  Brilliant folkie songwriting and a weathered voice that defies his youthful looks.  Maybe my most-frequently played record this year.

15. Hayden, “The Van Song,” In Field & Town.  Somewhere between Neil Young and Beck is Hayden Desser, armed with his detuned guitar and his misadventures into Falsetto.  “The Van Song” is a silly little ditty from his latest release, not perfectly representative, but a smiler that will stick in your head.

16.   Rodney Crowell, “Funky and the Farm Boy,” Sex & Gasoline.  Funky country, if there is a such thing, from veteran Crowell.  “She got tattoo huggin’ her hipbone, y’all!”

17. Luke Doucet, “The Comandante,” Blood’s Too Rich. Canadian singer/songwriter Doucet has been recognized as a quality writer, voice, and guitar player for a few years now, including sideman stints with Canada’s Kathleen Edwards and Sarah McClachlan.  With Blood’s Too Rich, Doucet turns his songwriting AND guitar prowess up a couple of notches, releasing a more Americana project with nods in places to (smoother versions of ) Neil Young and Mark Knopfler.

18. Ryan Adams, “Fix It,” Cardinology.  Love him or hate him, he’s a fantastic songwriter when he’s focused, and he’s focused in Cardinology from beginning to end.  Great rock and roll from the Cardinals, without all of the tiresome Dead-esque noodling.  I guess I’m “love him,” as this is his 6th appearance in 8 volumes . . .

19. Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet, “Sugar & Pie,” Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet.  A quartet led by a chick banjo player that includes Ben Sollee and Bela Fleck, playing Chinese folk-influenced bluegrass-pop.  What?  Dig it.  Their FHB in-studio performance of “Eleanor Rigby” earlier this Fall sent chills down my spine.

20. Death Cab for Cutie, “Long Division,” Narrow Stairs.  I was set to be disappointed, then not disappointed to be not disappointed by Narrow Stairs, the highly-anticipated follow-up to Death Cab’s breakthrough, Plans.  Still pop-sensible and catchy, Narrow Stairs is anything but happy, and a bit more complex, lyrically and musically.

21. The Avett Brothers, “Murder in the City,” The Second Gleam.  Simple and glorious folk from the recent EP holdover.

Disc Two

1. Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal,” Fleet Foxes.  Hopedaddy’s Record of the Year finds this West Coast bearded clan freak-folking, often drenched in reverb, in three and four-part harmony, through eleven heart-stopping songs.  Think At Dawn-era My Morning Jacket.  Buy it and get your freak-folk on!

2. The National, “You’ve Done it Again, Virginia,” The Virginia EP.  This EP is a one-off, full of demos and extras, but frequently as compelling as last year’s standout, Boxer.  The EP includes a live “Nationalized” cover of The Boss classic, “Mansion on the Hill,” worth the purchase price alone.

3. Blitzen Trapper, “Furr,” Furr.  This record races all over the map, from folk to rock to pop to country to . . . ?  A pleasant adventure, including this song about a man whose skin turns to . . . “furr”?

4.  TV on the Radio, “Halfway Home,” Dear Science,.  Post-punky funky electronic visual artist math rock musicians TVotR made a few critics turn their heads two years ago with Return to Cookie Mountain.  With Dear Science, TVotR have hit full-stride, topping many many year-end critics’ lists.  Turn “Halfway Home” to 11 and get lost in the syncopated handclaps and vocal meltdowns.  Brilliant.

5. Sigur Rós, “Inni Mer Syngur,” Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust.  S.R. have been around for a number of years, releasing a series of critically-acclaimed records that are more about the sound than anything else.  This, their most accessible album (if there is a such thing for an Icelandic art-rock band who sings in a partially-invented language), veers between territory marked out by Radiohead and, particularly on this track, Flaming Lips.

6. Beck, “Gamma Ray,” Modern Guilt.  Beck with production from Danger Mouse?  Can’t go wrong.

7. American Music Club, “All the Lost Souls Welcome You to San Francisco,” The Golden Age.  Mark Eitzel & at least one original AMC member kept AMC alive this year, with a release of another well-produced lush set, bouncing around from pop to rock to lounge music.

8. The Hold Steady, “Sequestered in Memphis,” Stay Positive.  After years of misplaced Boss comparisons, I finally “got it” this year, as The Hold Steady truly turned positive with this full-fledged beer-fueled no-holds-barred rock record.  After a blistering roof-raising opening set at the ‘Bird this Fall, we couldn’t bear to stick around for more than a couple of songs from the headliner, Drive-By Truckers.

9. Medeski, Martin, & Wood, “Free Go Lily,” Radiolarians I.  Keepin’ it jambandy funkified, this is exactly the vibe they give off live.  This is reportedly the first in a three-part Radiolarians series.

10. The Whigs, “Production City,” Misson Control.  Shallow loud fun from this band, clearly raised on equal parts Clash and Replacements.

11. Nikka Costa, “Pebble to a Pearl,” Pebble to a Pearl.  Daughter of famed producer Don Costa, Nikka Costa has been performing professionally since age 5.  Now 26, she’s perfected her sexy, funky R&B, a bit Winehouse, a bit Macy Gray.  “Pebble to a Pearl” is a clear tip-of-the-funk-hat to Stevie Wonder and his classic “Boogie on Reggae Woman.”

12. Loudon Wainwright, III, “School Days,” Recovery.  On Recovery, Rufus’ papa and M*A*S*H’s “singing surgeon” revisits songs he has recorded over his 30+ career as a singer-songwriter.  Almost all stand the test of time, including “School Days,” an introspective Loudon classic.

13. Marah, “Coughing up Blood,” Angels of Destruction!  Coughing up blood, indeed.  The Last Rock and Roll Band, poised for greatness, releases a stellar record of rock adventure (hailed by critics as the “first essential rock record of 2008”), secures a favorable NYT Sunday review, appears on Conan O’Brien . . . and breaks up three days later.  Hopedaddy will never recover, but will cling to Angels of Destruction!  Hopedaddy’s friends, now perhaps forever relegated to rock footnote.

14. Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody,” Only by the Night.  Personally, I like the less-slick more-sassy club version of KoL, but this is a fantastic record of arena rock.  These fellers are poised for The Big Time.

15. Tokyo Police Club, “Your English is Good,” Elephant Shell.  Throwaway harmless turn-it-up rock and roll that I couldn’t put down all year.

16. Kaiser Chiefs, “Never Miss a Beat,” Off With Their Heads.  Only slightly more-cred harmless turn-it-up rock and roll that I couldn’t put down.

17. My Morning Jacket, “Evil Urges,” Evil Urges. Jim James and MMJ re-invent their sound yet again, stretching from electronica to swamp rock to Prince to Zep, often within the structure of a single song.  The legions of fans who claimed to be alienated by the turn of this record just haven’t been paying attention to the evolution of this band.  The title track itself bridges Jim James falsetto parts with staccato guitar straight out of Houses of the Holy.  Stay tuned, they always make it interesting.

18. The Black Keys, “Strange Times,” Attack & Release.  The Black Keys were set to enter the studio for a special recording project with the legendary Ike Turner, when Mr. Turner opted, instead, to drop dead.  Keeping Danger Mouse on board as a producer anyway, the Ohio duo finally changed their sound a bit and put out the most interesting and exciting record of their career.

19. Gilberto Gil, “Gueixa no Tatame,” Banda Larga Cordel.  66-year-old singer, songwriter, and guitarist Gilberto Gil, once a cultural rebel in Brazil (returning later to be the Cultural Minister of Brazil) released a strong record of world, pop, samba, and reggae, tied together by lyrical social commentary on the rapid advance of technology.

20. Flight of the Conchords, “Bowie,” Flight of the Conchords.  The smartest parody since Weird Al, the self-proclaimed “former fourth most popular guitar-based acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo in New Zealand” have the funniest show on television.  “Bowie,” a dead-on spoof, comes directly from the episode where Bret is visited by the ghosts of three eras of David Bowie.

1 comment:

sdgroth said...

Some great selections. I confess I am not too music savvy, and didn't know many of the songs (really the only one I knew was Old Enough). Nothing really hit me the first time, but by the second listen I was really digging Use Somebody and The Bones Of You, and now I am enjoying most of the others. Thanks for putting these together!