Monday, December 31, 2007
#14 The New Pornographers - Challengers
Around this time in 2005 I was wondering what the big deal was with their last release "Twin Cinema." I gave it a few tries back then and just could not get into it. I don't know what happened between then and now but their most recent release, "Challengers" grew on me instantly. The use of many different vocalists and the harmonies that result make for a fun listening experience. Lyrically, this is a great album and I notice more every time I listen. The variety of styles and instrumentation on the album also makes for an interesting listening experience. The songs range from rocking songs to softer female lead folky tunes. The female voices on the album are outstanding and really carry the album.
All The Old Showstoppers
“Until I see you around
Until we clear the accounts
Leave it there
Leave it to us
We are the challengers of
“Yes a heart will always go one step too far
Come the morning and the four corners I see
What the moral of the back story could be
Come with me, go places
And a heart will always stay one day too long
Always hoping for the hot flashes to come
For the glue to dry on our new creation
Come with me, go places
Come head on, full circle
Our arms fill with miracles
Play hearts, kid, they work well
Like classics play aces
Stay with me, go places
Once more for the ages
Yes a heart should always go one step too far
Come the morning and the day winding like dreams
Come the morning every blue shade of green
Come with me, go places”
#15 Marr-dest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Modest Mouse added guitarist Johnny Marr from the Smiths into the mix for this album. I was a little worried about it since I'm not a big Smiths fan. The finished product is another solid release by modest mouse that gets better with every listen. I hear a little bit of a funk influence on top of the countless influences they have already showcased on previous releases. The old modest mouse is in there; the sound has just been polished and may be a little harder to pick out. The addition of James Mercer of the Shins on backing vocals on multiple songs was also a great idea. I love his voice and it really fits in well with the music. One of the best shows I saw this year was Modest Mouse at the Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore. The fact that I saw them instead of watching the second half of the Police set should tell you how good they were.
We've Got Everything
“I'll be beating my heart's record for speeding
I'll be beating the record for hearts skipping in the dark
Our tails wagged and then fell off
But we just turned back, marched into the sea”
“While we're on the subject
Could we change the subject now?
I was knocking on your ears
Don't worry, you were always out
Looking towards the future
We were begging for the past
Well, we know we had the good things
But those never seemed to last
Oh, please just last”
#16 Zookeeper - Becoming All Things
Chris Simpson's (former singer of Mineral and The Gloria Record) new project hit me out of nowhere. I don't even recall how I found out about it a few years ago. The debut EP was released last year and flew under most people's radar. I thought it was a good jumping off point but did not expect the first full length to be this good. A lot of the songs are multi-layered, sometimes to the point of cacophony but mostly just enough to make the songs more interesting. This is a great album to listen to while driving in the rain. I'm not sure why that is, but I always seem to have it on at work when it's raining. Most of these songs just make me smile and I can't pinpoint why. The cover looking like the "I'm the Pope" picture we used to laugh at in college doesn't hurt either.
Snow in Berlin
Everyone's a DJ
Born With Things To Do
“Been counting the days for most of our lives
And it looks like a pattern has begun to materialize
Yeah it looks like we're alive
But it looks like we're all eyes
And no ears to hear the trumpets so near
The trumpets so clear”
“But everyone's a DJ
Everyone's a critic today
We're all miracles, and maybes
Trading passion down for safety
It's a compromising world”
#17 The One AM Radio - This Too Will Pass
The One AM Radio is the brainchild of Hrishikesh Hirway. He programs most of the drums and ambient noise with his computer and his live show consists of a rotating cast of characters. I have seen him live 3 times and the instrumentation was drastically different each time. His songs can be extremely soothing even when they tough on subjects that would normally evoke the opposite reaction such as heartbreak and loneliness. His use of many different instruments makes for a very diverse album. I did not listen to this album enough this year and should probably be placing it higher (already moved up 4 spots while making my list). Hrishikesh writes some of the best lyrics I have ever heard and something about them seems to reach me on a personal level even when I don't necessarily relate to the lyrics. I highly recommend diving into the One AM Radio catalog. Go buy this album. You won't regret it. I know you don't have it, what are you waiting for?
The Echoing Airports
In the Time We've Got
“I go to airports
and wait by the gate for arriving flights.
I go to airports
to watch the lovers reunite.
I go to airports.
In every city they're the same.
The lonely airports,
echoing with all the shouted names
of loves who've been caught sight of,
returned from miles away,
from tiny lights
receding into the night
at the end of the runway.”
“the sound of the hull against the waves is not around to lull you to sleep nowadays.
you just lie awake, listening to the gulls in the bay.
breathe in salt air as you stare at the ceiling,
trying to recapture the feeling of being married to the sea,
but your vision gets so watery.
every night you dream of the same underwater scene,
but safe beneath your sheets,
you'll never find your way back to that peace.”
#18 Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
It still annoys me that Conor feels the need to start every album with random noise or something else that usually isn't considered "music." Once you get through the nonsense at the beginning though, you have a great album. It's the same old country influenced sound that Bright Eyes is known for. It's funny how Digital Ash in a Digital Urn got me into them and now I prefer the sound of their other album that was released that year. Conor still writes songs about politics and religion but I don't feel like he's beating us over the head with it on this release, which is nice. I can't talk about this album without mentioning how cool the packaging is. There is a decoder thing that you move along the cover and everywhere else to find more art and messages. On top of a great release, Bright Eyes also blew me away live in Wilmington this year at the Grand Opera House. It was my first time seeing them and hopefully not my last.
If the Breakman Turns My Way
Soul Singer In a Session Band
“When panic grips your body
And your heart's a hummingbird
Raven thoughts blacken your mind
'Til you're breathing in reverse
All your friends and sedatives mean well
But make it worse
Every reassurance just magnifies the doubt
Better find yourself a place to level out”
“Life is too short
Death doesn't ask
It don't owe you that
Some things you lose
You don't get back
So just know what you have
And make a plan to love me sometime soon”
#19 Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris
This was the first band that Guitar Hero really got me into. I had heard there singles before and thought they were good but never really got into them. Then i heard 3's and 7's on Guitar Hero 3 and immediately bought the album. Sometimes you just need some straight ahead rock and this is the perfect album for that. I really like the drumming on this album, which is strange because it's not something that usually draws me to an album. The album isn't all straight ahead rock though; there are some slower songs and I feel those are where Josh Homme's voice really shines. I have to go back and check out their back catalog now.
3's and 7's
Turnin' On the Screw
“My generation’s for sale
Beats a steady job.
How much have you got?
My generation don’t trust no one
Its hard to blame
Not even ourselves
The thing that’s real for us is fortune and fame
All the rest seems like work.”
“I'm gonna suture up my future
I ain't jaded
I just hate it
See, I been down too long
It's kinda hard to explain
Done and buried
All I carried
All my evil
Through a needle
As it pull through the eye
What was and what will
They're all gone”
Saturday, December 29, 2007
#20 The New Amsterdams - At the Foot of My Rival
Matt Pryor has one of my favorite voices in music today. He also writes amazing songs and I'm glad to see he's back at it. Their last release, "Story Like a Star" was a bit lackluster but they've come back strong with this release. There's a song on this album called "Story Like a Star" that is better than anything on the album of the same name. The best thing about this album was that I didn't even know it was being released until a few weeks before it came out. My expectations weren't very high after the last album but I think I would have loved this album regardless. It's funny how Matt Pryor makes music for pretty much each age range he's lived so far. You've got the Terrible Twos for kids, the Get Up Kids for teens and early twenties and The New Amsterdams for everything after that. I can't wait to hear what's next. Now if only his partner in crime from the Get Up Kids would release another Blackpool Lights album...
Story Like a Scar
A Beacon in Beige
The Blood on the Floor
“I'm just a fool who
you love to be cruel to
gravel under your wheels”
“life is too rich
to waste it waiting around for you
life is too rich
to waste it waiting around for you
whatever you wanna do”
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
#21 Lily Allen - Alright, Still
This album is my guilty pleasure. It’s straight up pop and I love it. When I first heard LDN on Lily’s myspace page back before the album came out it was stuck in my head for weeks. The thing I love the most about this album is the reggae/ska influence reminiscent of The Specials, which is displayed on numerous songs. Every year I find an album that fulfills my craving for off beat ska rhythms. Lily has a great voice and a knack for writing witty and often hilarious lyrics; that is, if she writes the songs herself. The comedy should come as no surprise since her dad is British comedian Keith Allen. She also has some serious songs such as the amazing “Littlest Things.” I hope Lily can keep up the good work and release another album while juggling a tv show and a new baby.
Shame for You
Knock ‘em Out
“The littlest things that take me there,
I know it sounds lame, but it's so true.
I know its not right, but it seems unfair,
That things are reminding me of you.”
“What happened to the good old days?
I was kinda hoping this was all a stupid phase
Who are you anyway?
I know you've heard this all before
I know some people who are calling you a whore
Don't know you anymore”
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
#22 Jonah Matranga - And
Jonah makes some of the most heartfelt songs I’ve ever heard. I finally got to see him live recently and was blown away with how personal the shows are and how nice Jonah is to everyone that approaches him. It’s nice to hear songs about hope and about going through the emotions of dealing with your child’s problems and other real life situations in a time when most songs are nonsense. Jonah pours his heart out in these songs and at the same time manages to mask the lyrics in catchy pop tunes. The songs range from pop to folk/rock and all have that Jonah feel to them.
Lost, Then Found
Definitely, Definitely, Definitely
"We've been through a lot.
We've gone a lot of miles.
And with a little luck we'll keep going for a long while.
So for every aching night and every perfect day.
When I ask if you love me, don't laugh or turn away.
I love you all the time,
But I can't read your mind."
"Always say the best is lost, then found.
Whatever it is you're going through the best things in life are coming around.
The future’s just a worry, the past is just a dream.
This isn't my opinion, it's only what I've seen."
Thursday, December 20, 2007
#23 As Tall As Lions - Into the Flood EP
I love this band. There is something about them that is just a breath of fresh air. I wrestled with putting it on the list since I haven’t had it for very long. It eventually won out because it keeps reminding me how awesome their last release is. The soothing vocals and incredible harmonies are still there and it makes me wish I could discover the last album all over again. The only downside to this album is that it’s only a 5 song EP so it is just a tease of what’s to come. I really hope a new full length follows in the new year.
We’re the Ones That Keep You Warm
“dreams of yesterday
have haunted my life
they bleed through the day
and creep through the night
blacked out but not gone
well sometimes you need love to hold on
blacked out but not gone
I see you walk away like the setting sun”
#24 Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
Lately Ryan Adams can’t let a year go by without releasing something. He released a full length and an EP this year alone. I don’t know how he can consistently put out solid releases; it will have to end eventually although I hope it doesn’t. I nearly put the EP on here just for his cover of Alice in Chains’ “Down in a Hole.” Most of this album displays the country side of Ryan Adams, although he touches on his rock side with “Halloween Head.” Some of the songs are very reminiscent of Neil Young. Something about his voice and lyrics just make him seem so vulnerable and easy to relate to. I love to put this album on and just zone out. I initially got into Adams based on his rock sound but I’m starting to prefer the style closer to this album. I hope Ryan can keep up with his trend and release some stellar albums again next year.
“God bless all the late night girls,
and they're coming out to play.
I've been stranded in their doorstep
for every night and day.
I only want them more,
but when they smile,
how can anybody feel bad?
It makes me tired and I wanna go to bed
These girls are better off in my head.”
“I taught myself how to grow
Without any love and there was poison in the rain
I taught myself how to grow
'Til I was crooked on the outside, inside's broke
I taught myself how to grow old”
Monday, December 17, 2007
#25 Small Sins - Mood Swings
This is one of the first bands I discovered through XM radio. I heard a few songs from their last album released in ’06 and immediately downloaded the album. I listened to that album a lot this year and was not expecting anything new to come out any time soon. One day I’m driving home from work and I go to XMU on XM and they are starting to play their new record straight through with commentary between songs from the lead singer, Thomas D'Arcy. I almost wanted to drive home really slow just to hear it all. The album is very electronic based (keyboards and drum loops appear more often than not). It may be some of the catchiest music to come out this year. A lot of the lyrics provide a stark contrast to the music, often creating images of guns and violence such as “and you know I'd shoot you, if I only had a gun.” Even the album art consists of a drawing of a gun. Not all of the lyrics follow in this vein though. The second track on the album (Morning Face) is what sold me on buying this release. I heard it during my listen on XMU as I mentioned early. Darcy said the track was about waking up with someone and realizing you are one of the only people that get to see their “morning face.” The fact that someone thought to write a song about that just blew me away.
On the Line
I Need a Friend
“Yes these are loaded questions
Sent to you late at night
But baby I still need answers”
“If you give me the gun,
Well I’ll shoot myself in the foot,
And I want to be different this time,
But I know that I won’t.
So I need a friend,
To get me on my feet again,
Yeah I need a friend
Hard working and under slept,
But lazy at heart,
Everything that you know you want
Seems like no big deal when it starts,
So come take my hand my dear,
And show me where I should draw the line,
Cuz I need a friend this time.”