To take a quick reprieve from dogs and assholes…
A top ten list of sorts. Not from either field which I call home (films, novels) but from my truest passion, music. The best albums of 2008, in unequivocal order. Don’t argue, you know my tastes, you know where I stand, just open your Amazon account and order those not in your collection. It’ll be the best hundred bucks you’ve spent in a long while.
#1 – Delta Spirit – “Ode to Sunshine” – Hands down the one masterpiece of 2008, the best cd by the best new band. Eleven tracks that evoke all things good in rock n roll from the Replacements to the Beatles, yet manage to sound original at the same time. Start with “People C’mon” or “Children,” but really there isn’t a weak or false beat on this cd. Fucking amazing!
#2 – Paul Westerberg – “49” – a glorious mess, one never ending 43-plus minute track comprised of PW’s best work since “Stereo/Mono.” Songs, clips, covers, noise, it’s a stream of unconsciousness from the greatest songwriter of our time. Not for everyone, because most people won’t get it or have the patience, but if you do the rewards are never ending.
#3 – The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Hometowns” – I gave this album a shot because of a review that simply read “In the aeroplane over Alberta.” And while not in the same league of the most perfect piece of art ever created (yes, you read that right), “Hometowns” is an instant indie noise-pop classic, loose strumming, twangs, all off-kilter and remarkably catchy. Download “Edmonton” and you’ll be sold.
#4 – Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago” – Nine hauntingly beautiful tracks that bring to mind Nick Drake or perhaps very early Elliott Smith. As fragile as a teenager’s heart, Justin Vernon (who essentially IS Bon Iver) has a voice that you will never forget. Listen to the album’s final track “Re: Stacks,” a better song has not been released this year.
#5 – Langhorne Slim – “Langhorne Slim” – Another voice unlike no other, Langhorne Slim yelps and croons as if he were having way too much fun playing these songs. He picks his guitar like the 80-year-old blind man who invented the blues. There’s a lot to like here, especially “Hummingbird,” one of the greatest songs ever written about having no choice but to move on from a relationship that just couldn’t work no matter how hard either partner tried. It’s heartbreakingly real and so sadly beautiful. You’ll want to give Langhorne a hug.
#6 – Santogold – “Santogold” – This year’s M.I.A., poppy, bordering on the danceable, and usually nothing I would ever listen to if it weren’t so damn infectious. Download “Lights Out” and see if it doesn’t remind you of the greatest 80s pop cd you never heard,
#7 – The Gaslight Anthem – “The 59 Sound” – if Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg had a kid, this Jersey band would be it. Great, anthem-like rock n roll. Start with the title track and you won’t let go. And don’t let the crap emo bands they tour with turn you off. These guys are the real thing. (They should be touring with Wilco.)
#8 – Coldplay – “Viva La Vida” – This is not your grandfather’s Coldplay. First off they suddenly discovered guitars, and then they discovered how to rock. None of the wimpy ballad crap, the last four songs (starting with the title track) are as strong as any you’ll hear on almost any cd this year (except for perhaps the first three on this list). If you’ve never liked Coldplay (I detest their other cds), now is the time to give them a shot.
And that’s my list. Only 8 cds…there are certainly a few worthy of honorable mentions: Matthew Ryan’s “Matthew Ryan vs. Silver State,” Nada Surf’s “Lucky,’’ Crooked Fingers’ “Forfeit/Fortune,” and Mudcrutch’s self-titled cd. But overall it was a ridiculously disappointing year, when even the usual culprits (Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst, The Hold Steady) bored me to tears.
I will give Ryan Adams kudos for the tune “Magick,” which proved the boy knows how to rock, I just wish he’d stop whining and stop writing the same song over and over again (really the new cd sounds like bad outtakes from last year’s far superior “Easy Tiger”). Ryan it’s okay to sound like the Replacements, it’s what you do best.
As for the worst cd of the year. Wow, this is so easy; I don’t even have to think about it. It’s a cd that epitomizes all that is bad about rock music and the self-proclaimed messiah critics on the web. Gutless, sounding like a group of 8-year-olds with child-sized instruments trying to play rock n roll, the album in question is the self-titled debut from Vampire Weekend. Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. Really, if you like Vampire Weekend put out an A.P.B. on your balls, because they have seriously gone missing.
That’s it for me. I can only hope for a better 2009, though I’m ending on a Springsteen high. Not the Boss, but my new pup. (See photo below). He was one of the wild packs of hounds menacing the streets of Tennessee. We got him through Paws4Rescue.org. Everything about this organization is top notch and professional. (And if you’ve been reading this blog you know the issues I’ve had with other so-called rescue groups.) Well, these guys are the real thing. Donate, get your next pup from them, and/or recommend them to a friend: www.Paws4Rescue.org.
In the mean time, and while you’re surfing the web, check out the updated site for our new movie FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS): www.FWBmovie.com
Then order a copy of the YOU ARE ALONE dvd: www.YouAreAlone.com
And read a free short story on my site: www.GormanBechard.com
Now I close with another top ten list, written by one of my closest friends, Matt Bialer. I finished my list without seeing his, and visa-versa. I present his now, unedited, and knowing there’ll be plenty to argue about:
Top 10 CD from Matthew Bialer
No order: titus andronicus: the Airing of Grievances. I’ll say. One big drunken, sloppy Jersey fuck you to all. If you like beer and more beer, great songs, the Clash, Pogues, Bruce, Mekons….
The Gaslight Anthem: the ’59 Sound. Great anthemic rock that is like Bruce meets the Clash. It is what rock n roll is all about. Has balls and evokes a lot of rock n roll iconic shit.
Land of Talk: Some are Lakes. I love Liz Powell’s voice and songs. Just great stuff. Kind of evokes girl grunge, I suppose.
Delta Spirit: Great record. And no Gorman, it’s not Replacements derived. It’s like Arcade Fire meets the Zombies.
Frightened Rabbit: the Midnight Organ Fight. Great Scot Pop. If you like Orange Juice, teenage Fanclub, the Twilight Sad.
Tapes ‘n Tapes: Walk it Off. Fuck everyone who dissed this sophmore effort. Fuck you all. I like it and I still play it. And it’s better than most of Pitchfork’s top ten including Fleet Foxes, No Age and Deerhunter (some great songs but a little filler there, ey?)
Guns n Roses: Chinese Democracy. Because I like bands with “n” in the middle and because Axl Rose on a bad day (day? Bad 15 years, I guess) can still kick a lot of bands asses that critics swoon over.
A.A. Bondy: American Hearts. Kind of in the same spirit of Deertick. Mellow. Acoustic. But tough. The singer was the main dude from Verbena. Really good.
Birdmonster: From the Mountain to the Sea. Another great record that Pitchfork really shit on. Well I think this record is superb. For fans of Wilco, Dylan, great roots rock. I love this record.
Overpraised records: Vampire Weekend. I admit to tapping my foot a bit but not a great band. Also, they are like the second coming of Haircut One Hundred down to the preppy sweaters. And where are Haircut One Hundred now?? Exactly. And Haircut were better and even had more balls (gumball sized, as opposed to none).
Fleet Foxes: something fey and pretty here but I don’t get the critics going nuts over them. A few good songs but not terribly exciting to me.
No Age: I like some of this but anyone who plays this over and over and over again has to be suspected of brain damage. I wish they had more “songs” here but there is talent.
TV On the Radio: don’t get them. And what is this horseshit that they “speak for the times”. Yeah, for the times bumming around in a cafe in Williamsburg.
I wanted to like the new Hold Steady because I like them but this new one is weak to me, despite a few good songs.
The Walkmen. The guy is like Englebert Humperdink fronting a wedding band on only its “rock out” numbers.