Thursday, January 29, 2009

Releases, Part I

I was terrible at posting about music last year. Don't know why. Maybe I was just uninspired about last year's music. Or maybe I was just lazy. (I was just lazy.) I'll be better this year, I promise.

Last week's releases are a good place to start. I mean, there were four new releases that I would've been excited about any release day, plus the new Bon Iver EP. I'll skip the Bon Iver because I don't really know him all that well. The EP is great though.

Okay, I'll start here and continue in the next post:

A.C. Newman - Get Guilty

As much as I love A.C. Newman, I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about this album. I was disappointed by the last New Pornographers album (Challengers) and thought that his other solo album (The Slow Wonder) sounded more like an outtake album. Plus Get Guilty came out a frenzied day of releases. This was the album to slip between the cracks. It hasn’t though. I absolutely love it. Newman has been relaxing a little since the pop explosion of Twin Cinema, but it sounds more mature and less forced than Challengers. Darker? Not quite. But definitely more serious. And it sounds fantastic. This album will definitely stick with me throughout the year.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

This, along with Merriweather Post Pavilion, was definitely the two albums I was most excited about. Andrew Bird’s previous album Armchair Apocrypha was one of my favorite albums of 2007, and I have grown even fonder of it since. It was instantly satisfying, impossible not to love after the opening of “Fiery Crash.”

Noble Beast however is much more difficult to understand. There are no pop songs here. It’s constantly complex. Most of the songs are more like suites. This album is the very definition of a grower. Even as I listened to it the first time, it took until the fifth song, “Tenuousness,” to begin to understand what was I was hearing. It’s difficult to put into words, but this is definitely not background music. It’s something that requires your undivided attention, because just a passing listen will leave you completely unsatisfied. It’s all great to hear as a package. There are a couple of songs that stand out, but they are much weaker without the surrounding songs. This album is a worthwhile experience, but not an easy experience.

Also if you pick up this album, go ahead and get the deluxe version with the instrumental bonus disc, Useless Creatures. It’s worth the extra money.

And I like the cover better.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Luck

Man I used to have just terrible luck when it came to finances. I always seemed to run into those “rains-it-pours” situations. The last couple of years have been pretty good to me though. It helps that I’ve been making quite a bit more money over the last year and a half. I also have been pretty frugal with my money too, saving up throughout the year and making one fairly big purchase a year. This time last year I picked up my sweet TV. This year I picked out a new laptop.

I ordered it on Sunday after weeks of self-debate. It was either that or a new car. My car is fine though. I also don’t have a car payment right now (I finished my loan off last year). I haven’t done my taxes yet, so I can parlay my return back into savings for the computer. It all makes sense.

This laptop is going to be sweet too. 4 gig of ram. It has a sweet ATI dedicated video card, not some cheap integrated junk. Everything is working for it. It’d better be since I spent nearly a grand on it. Again, the car is fine. No worries.

Well until yesterday when I took it in for a routine oil change. They found about eight problems worth around $1300. I had already ordered my laptop on Sunday. Sigh.

Now it’ll be okay. I can afford everything. I’m not cancelling my computer order. The problems with my car are not totally catastrophic and can be gradually fixed. It just really aggravates me that this has to happen at once. My luck is back.

Friday, January 23, 2009

No More Silver Jews

Such sad news. One of my favorites is no more.

Please David, don't let this be true!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sunless Shortlist: Albums 2008

15. Calexico - Carried to Dust

Not only one of the year's best, but definitely the year's most surprising album. Calexico puts on a hell of a show, but has never really been able to match that on record. They certainly do now. This is a great album.

14. Sigur Rós - Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust

This album definitely has a few slow spots, but the high points are some of the best this band has ever released. Also, this is probably their least melodramatic album to date. Because of this, it sounds very refreshing.

13. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

If the Beach Boys were formed in the last couple of years, this is what they would sound like. It's weird. It's beautiful. It's what music sounds like right now. It's almost what it used to sound like. And it all works.

12. Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

One of the year's most underrated albums. This is definitely a grower, but David Berman's writing is absolutely spectacular on this album.

11. Black Keys - Attack & Release

Danger Mouse can do no wrong. Every time he touches an album, it works. Here he makes yet another great band even better. Best Black Keys album to date.

10. Fleet Foxes - s/t

Got to be honest, I'm definitely not as crazy about this album as everybody else on the planet. Great album? Definitely. It's just not as much of a masterpiece as it's made out to be. Just my opinion.

09. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping

Of Montreal is a ridiculous band that records ridiculous music, but it is great to hear. Of Montreal is like the Monty Python of music.

08. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams

Destroyer's previous album is one of my favorite albums in years. And while this album isn't the classic that one was, it is still amazing. And how is it that nobody has payed any attention to this album? Surely the most underrated album of the year.

07. James - Hey Ma

With James's ego, I was definitely expecting a reunion album full of "we're so awesome!" The liner notes helped with this assumption. However, the music itself is amazingly good and relevant. There is no rust from this James lineup that hasn't recorded together in fifteen years.

06. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

Okkervil River's relevence is the fastest growing in the world right now. Within another album, this band will be what Wilco was three years ago. Even an add-on album like this is still remarkable.

05. Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride

The more polished the Mountain Goats get, the harder it is to listen to at first. However, the more you listen, the more you understand that everything is still the same. The writing is as funny and viscious and emotional as ever. Remarkable albums are routine for the Mountain Goats.

04. Beck - Modern Guilt

Beck's simplest, shortest, and possibly best album to date. It's just all so super-hip. Even if Beck is kind of a douchebag, his music is just so cool. Oh and take a look at who produced this album. It's Danger Mouse again!

03. The Walkmen - You & Me

2008 was definitely the year of the Walkmen for me. I’d never really paid much attention to them. Then I saw them play in Norfolk in the spring and have been obsessed since. However, this latest album isn’t just me riding the wave. It is just a great album.

02. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

2008’s most criminally ignored album. Where did all the love for Wolf Parade go? Four years ago, they could do no wrong. Now they release one of the best albums of the year and nobody pays attention? It’s a shame because this album rivals their previous release in every way possible.

01. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Nick Cave is the king of reinvention because it’s never insincere. Here’s the rundown of his career:
Pre-1983: The garage punk
1984-1990: The gothic lounge singer
1990-1994: The heroin casualty
1996: The sick balladeer
1997-2004: The redemption man
2007: The middle-aged garage punk
2008: The beat generation’s last emissary
Every single phase of Nick Cave ’s career has reflected exactly who he is. He’s the world’s most honest songwriter. He will write songs that nobody else would think about. Or maybe others will think of it, but would never be ballsy enough to release it. This latest album by Nick Cave is one of the most sincere releases I’ve heard in years. There is nothing phony here. It’s funny. It’s disturbing. It’s beautiful. It’s challenging. It’s just perfect.


Gotta be honest here. 2008 was kind of a disappointing year in music. Usually it's difficult for me to fit just fifteen of my favorite albums on a list. This year, it was difficult to find fifteen albums to put on this list. Don't get me wrong, these albums I included are all great. It's just that this list lacks the classics I've included in the past few years. Except for Nick Cave's new album. That album blows my mind.

2009, however, is shaping up to be a great year. This upcoming Tuesday has four releases that can contend for album of the year (Animal Collective, Antony & The Johnsons, Andrew Bird, and A.C. Newman... that's a lot of A's). Then next week is the next Franz Ferdinand, which I am looking forward to.

Beyond that, March is looking great (new Decemberists, Handsome Furs, and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, plus that mysterious Condo Fucks album). Even further down the line are promises of a new Grizzly Bear album, two new albums by Phosphorescent (including next months Willie Nelson cover album), and (gulp!) a new album by Wilco sometime this spring. 2009 is looking great so far. Can't wait!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunless Shortlist: Songs 2008

Here are my favorite songs of 2008. I was going to post these as a mixtape, but it's kind of a weird mix. Or maybe I'm just lazy. Anyhoo...

American Music Club - "I Know That’s Not Really You"
Surprisingly a disappointing album by one of my favorite bands. This song, however, would stand out on even their best albums.

Animal Collective - "Water Curses"
AC followed up a huge 2007 with a quiet 2008. They did find time to put out a nice little EP highlighted by this title track.

Beck - "Gamma Ray"
The ‘60’s hipster sound Beck and Danger Mouse strived for on this album is perfectly on display with this song.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - "We Call Upon the Author"

Viscious song. Nick Cave writes like nobody else.

Elvis Costello & The Imposters - "American Gangster Time"

EC’s best era is the This Years Model/Armed Forces/Get Happy! era. This song is his throwback to that era. Perfectly executed too. Not just for cheap applause.

Department of Eagles - "No One Does It Like You"
One of the year’s most exciting songs. The sound I love now is all right here.

Destroyer - "Dark Leaves Form a Thread"
Dan Bejar’s rowdy side is wonderful to hear, isn’t it?

DeVotchKa - "The Clockwise Witness"
This band is just so close to greatness. So close.

James - "Whiteboy"
“My ma says I look like Yul Brenner. Too old for Hamlet, too young for Lear.”

Mountain Goats - "How to Embrace a Swamp Creature"
Heretic Pride to me sounds a less like an album and more like a great collection of songs. This song just happens to be the best of them.

Okkervil River - "Lost Coastlines"
This song is exactly why Okkervil River is one of the most exciting bands in world.

Sigur Ros - "Gobbledigook"
Hippy drum circle? Doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, but song is perfect.

Silver Jews - "What is Not But Could Be If"
Certainly not one of David Berman’s most lyrically complex songs, but he is so good an setting the mood.

Walkmen - "On the Water"
Everybody’s freaking out about “In the New Year,” but this is my favorite Walkmen song of the year.

Wolf Parade - "Soldier's Grin"
Dan Boeckner described himself as the member of Wolf Parade that nobody likes. Whatver, dude. I love your songs so much!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Saga of Guitar Hero: World Tour

…or Why I Hate UPS

12/25/08: With some Christmas money I ordered the new Guitar Hero game when noticed that the guitar-pack was $75 on Amazon. I figured I could get the free shipping and save $25 over buying it in-store. The only problem is that I’d have to wait on the shipment, but that’s not a problem. Right?

12/30/08: Delivery failed. Every time I order from Amazon, they send it USPS. That’s never a problem. This time they sent it UPS. Now I have to sign for the package. That’s fine, I guess. The slip said it would be re-delivered the next day after 2pm.

12/31/08: I get home at 1pm to find another failed delivery. They tried at noon. That’s two hours before their estimate. Next delivery attempt would be Friday after 2pm. I called the phone number listed to get some confirmation. The automated message said next delivery would be on Monday. I tried to change it to Friday, like on the slip, but it wouldn’t let me. After screaming “fuck you” at the recording about fifteen times, it finally connected me to a person. I told them that I want the package delivered on Friday, like the slip said. They told me I shouldn’t have changed the date to Monday. What? Eventually the operator started listening to me and the delivery was changed to Friday.

1/2/09: No delivery. I called and am told that delivery wasn’t set up until Monday. Oh and that I was the one that set up the Monday delivery. I asked what time. He said between 12:30 and 1pm. *click* Did that fucker just hang up on me?? I called back and tell them what happened, but apparently didn’t believe me. Whatever. Just send it to me on Monday.

1/5/09: Apparently no delivery, but maybe it was delivered to the apartment office while I napped after work. I called UPS and am told that there was no delivery attempt. Dude, I freaking lost it at this point. I was screaming and yelling and making quite the scene. The operator just lost patience with me at this point. With me! She gave the local dudes a message to call me. They do within fifteen minutes. Now this guy was a straight-shooter. He told me exactly when it would be delivered.

1/6/09: Delivery made. Right at the time the local dude told me.

I have played the game a total of once since I got it. Yeah, pretty fun. Worth this headache with UPS? Oh hell no!!

This whole affair was almost as disappointing as the new R.E.M. album. Oh transitions!!

Most Disappointing Album of 2008

Now usually I try to reserve this spot for literally my most disappointing album of the year. However, it usually becomes a forum for me to bash a band that just got shitty. This album, though, really just made me sad.

R.E.M. - Accelerate
I love R.E.M. I really do. I am one of the few that has stuck with them through the years and love everything they do. I loved Reveal. It was reviewed pretty poorly, but I think it’s one of their finest works. The last thing by R.E.M. I absolutely loved was the song “Bad Day” from their compilation In Time. It’s that classic R.E.M. sound that I have been craving. When I started to hear some reviews of Accelerate and keep seeing the words “classic R.E.M. sound” I have to get excited. Then I got the album. And it’s just not good at all. Overproduced. Full of uninteresting songs. Just nothing to get excited about. Come on guys. I still love you though.