Wednesday, January 02, 2008
#1 Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
I'm ashamed to admit I hadn't listened to Wilco until this was released. I was missing out big time. Something about this album just struck a chord with me. I actually started paying attention to VW commercials. I had to go out and start buying all of their albums. This was another simple, laid back album like Spoon that just felt right. Little did I know that this was actually a departure from the experimental direction the band had been going. Jeff Tweedy writes awesome songs and deserves more credit than he gets. There's a sense of hope through out this album and it's nice to hear it. Sometimes that's all you need from music. This is a great album to listen to in the fall when the leaves are turning and you just want to sit back and relax. I really need to see this band live. If you only check out one album on this list then I suggest this. I realize that should be obvious but it's an album that I think anyone can fall in love with.
Shake It Off
“Maybe you still love me maybe you don't
Either you will or you won't
Maybe you just need some time alone
I will try to understand
Everything has its plan
Either way I'm going to stay right for you”
“With the sky blue sky, this rotten time
Wouldn't seem so bad to me now
Oh, if I didn't die I should be satisfied I survived
It's good enough for now”
#2 The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
One of my favorite bands FINALLY releases another album after roughly 3 years of touring. I can't believe I have another album ranked above this but this has been a great year for music. JK Samson is quite possibly the best lyricist I have ever heard. He can take an everyday situation and pick a random person out of it and have them tell an amazing story, such as the bus driver in Civil Twilight. He has also written multiple songs from the point of view of a cat named Virtute and the one on this album is an amazing example of what JK is capable of. I could have just filled in the favorite quotes section of this entry with the lyrics to the whole album. The music on the other hand isn't quite up to par with what I had come to expect from The Weakerthans. Not to say it's bad but it just didn't hit me as fast and took some time to grow. Luckily those lyrics were there to always keep me interested. I had the pleasure of seeing these guys live again and it was one of the best shows I went to all year. Listen to the lyrics of "Utilities" and try to tell me Samson isn't a gifted song writer.
Relative Surplus Value
Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
“Every other hour I pass that house,
Where you told me that you had to go
I wonder if the landlord has fixed the crack,
That I stared at, instead of staring back at you;
My chance to say something seemed so brief, but it wasn't.
Now I know I had plenty of time
Between the sunset and certified darkness
Dusk comes on and I follow the exhaust from memory up to the end
The civil twilight”
“And the pause feels like an extra year
of high school
The CEO takes me aside
I'm down 12 points
and they're selling.
The graphs in the board room show
by the time that the market
opens in Tokyo
I'll be worthless
So, what I'm trying to say,
I mean what I'm asking is,
I know we haven't talked in a while
but could you come get me?”
#3 Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
This album and the 2 that follow should all just be tied for #1. I have changed them around numerous times while making this list. Spoon was off my radar until the release of "Gimme Fiction" and I quickly became a fan. This was another highly anticipated album. There is something really simplistic about the album and it's what takes what would have been a good album and makes it great. They didn't use fancy bells and whistles or strange production techniques that I know of. It's just a straight ahead album full of great songs. Britt Daniel's voice is another one of my favorites and he uses it well. The album has a 60's/70's feel to it and I can't pick out why; it may be the production and the background horn section on some songs. I like every song on this album a lot and really hope their next release is just as good, if not better. There's another former Get Up Kid sighting in bassist Ryan Pope on this album and his bass lines are what really make this album get into a groove. This release also has my favorite album art on this list.
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
Don't You Evah
“You got no time for the messenger,
got no regard for the thing that you don't understand,
you got no fear of the underdog,
that's why you will not survive”
“I believed that someone'd take care of me tonight
As I'm lookin' out at you, can you see that in...
In my eyes, on the mend, now they could lead me home
Street tar in summer will play a trick on your soul”
#4 Minus the Bear - Planet of Ice
Now here's a band that can do no wrong. Minus the Bear is one of the few bands I listen to that I can honestly say have an original sound that I never hear anywhere else. It's technical and catchy at the same time and they use an array of effects pedals to set themselves apart from their peers. The amazing thing is that the songs translate perfectly to their live show, I didn't think they could do it. This album has a more experimental, pink floyd sound to it compared to their earlier releases. Their lyrics used to tell simple stories but now they seem a little more sexual and a little more abstract. They also ditched the funny and sometimes long song titles for normal titles. I don't know if I would have suggested that they make all the changes because they were fine the way they were but as you've noticed in this list, bands maturing is a theme. I just wish some of these songs were on rock band.
“In the nightmare desert stood a building.
Outside someone was diggin' a hole in the ground.
They were burying my luck.”
“Her body's under the covers
And there's nothing wrong with a single inch and then we change positions
She's got me on my back losing common sense
Lay on the bright lights
You can't hear the music but we're playing the same tune
Each beat, every note played perfectly by you”
#5 Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Finally, a buzz band that avoids the sophomore slump. I'm sure there have been others but probably not 2 albums as solid as these. Alex Turner's slightly slurred British delivery is still there and I love it. The only thing that has changed is that the band sounds a little tighter and some of the songs rock a little harder than the first album. They also continue the trend of ending the album with the strongest song of the bunch; if you haven't heard "505" please do so now. The double time feel of the songs mixed with the dancy bass lines makes this a great party album. I hope these guys have a long career full of fun albums ahead of them.
Edit: While listening to the album after I wrote this, this line really hit me:
"I hope you're holding hands by New Year's Eve
They made it far too easy to believe
That true romance can't be achieved these days"
D is for Dangerous
“Stop and wait a sec
When you look at me like that
My darling, what did you expect?
I probably still adore you
With your hands around my neck
Or I did last time I checked”
“As she walked away
Well her shoes were untied
And the eyes were all red
You could see that we'd cried
And I watched and I waited until she was inside
Forcing a smile and waving goodbye
Curiosity becomes a heavy load
Too heavy to hold”
#6 Thrice - The Alchemy Index: Water
The second part of the 2 EP release by Thrice. For the other half, see #10. I remember complaining that Thrice was too soft when Vheissu was released. It's funny how time changes things. I now prefer the more mellow Thrice songs like the ones present on this disc. It is amazing how each song makes you feel as though you are floating in the sea or under water. The use of the sonar sound from a submarine is really creative. All of the imagery created by the lyrics is nothing short of breathtaking. I can't imagine trying to write a collection of songs that all tie together one element but somehow Thrice has done it perfectly twice, with 2 more to come. I did not think these songs would translate well to the live show but I was wrong. Seeing these songs performed live was great and I can't wait to catch them on a headlining tour.
“I awoke, cold and alone
Adrift in the open sea
Caught up in regrets and tangled in nets
Instead of your arms wrapped around me
And I wept but my tears are anathema here
Just more water to fill my lungs
I hear someone scream
'God what is it we have done?'
I am drowning in a digital sea
I am slipping beneath the sound
Here my voice goes, to ones and zeroes
I'm slipping beneath the sound”
“I'm starting to
believe the ocean's
much like you,
because it gives
and it takes
Between the devil
and the deep blue sea,
I stare into the abyss.
The open water
is an awful thing,
But I'm anxious till the anchor is
#7 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Living With the Living
Ted's last release came out of nowhere and just owned me. This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. It may not be his strongest release to date but I was not disappointed one bit. Everything I love about Ted is present on this album. The lyrics are top notch as usual, touching on social issues but doing it in a somewhat subtle way (except on bomb, repeat, bomb.). The catchy songs are there, including reggae and mod influences that Ted's known for. I would say that Ted can do no wrong but then someone would point out his first record "Te(j) Leo" and I would be proven wrong. I'm just glad Ted got that experiment out of his system early. Anyone who randomly goes into "Dayman" from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia in the middle of his live show is nothing short of amazing. Ted always kicks it up a notch live and these songs are no exception. Ted and the pharmacists are one of those bands that I try to see whenever they are in town. I suggest you do the same.
Who Do You Love?
La Costa Brava
The Unwanted Things
“Everyone needs a sunday some days, everyone needs to take some time away.
So come on home from the front lines, baby,
You know you've done more than your time there was supposed to have been.
A little time out could turn your head 'round,
A little time out could lift us our of the mess we're in.
And down by the beach there's a small cafe,
Where we'll hang on for Joan and drink Bonet all day.”
“And so goes the most of our freedom of speech: we live for the city, we work for the beach
And when the weekend seems to be just out of reach
Just make the most of what you’re paid, dear
Your love’s a ghost, and that’s why we’re delayed here”
#8 LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Oh how my musical tastes have evolved. In college I probably would have hated this album. Now it just makes me want to dance around in my seat at work or in the car. I'm still not completely sold on the more repetitive, techno sounding songs but I don't dislike them. The lyrics on the rest of the songs are first rate and would probably be my favorite lyrics of the year if not for one of my favorite song writers releasing an album this year. The entire album with the exception of the closing track is upbeat musically even though the lyrics can be quite the opposite. The closing track is an amazing portrait of New York and why so many people love it and hate it for the same reasons. Song of the year candidate "All My Friends" was a song I could really relate to and deals with growing up and the twists and turns along the way. I had the privilege of seeing this band live at the Virgin Festival and was completely blown away. I had seen them live on Letterman before and was less than impressed so seeing them perform so well was a shock to the system. I don't think my foot stopped tapping the entire time.
North American Scum
All My Friends
New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down
“And if the sun comes up, if the sun comes up, if the sun comes up
And I still don't wanna stagger home
Then it's the memory of our betters
That are keeping us on our feet
You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan
And the next five years trying to be with your friends again
You're talking 45 turns just as fast as you can
Yeah, I know it gets tired, but it's better when we pretend
It comes apart
The way it does in bad films
Except in parts
When the moral kicks in”
“New York, I Love You
But you're freaking me out
There's a ton of the twist
But we're fresh out of shout
Like a death in the hall
That you hear through your wall
New York, I Love You
But you're freaking me out
New York, I Love You
But you're bringing me down
New York, I Love You
But you're bringing me down
Like a death of the heart
Jesus, where do I start?
But you're still the one pool
Where I'd happily drown”
#9 The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
It feels like this album came out a long time ago. I think I've had this longer than any other release on this list except maybe Lily Allen. When the year started I thought that nothing would be able to top this album. The fact that 8 albums have says a lot about the quality of music being released this year. The Shins continue doing what they do best. Catch pop songs that pick you up and then gently put you down when they are over. Sea Legs might be one of my favorite songs of the year. The use of bottle caps and a popping bag to make the beat for this song is genius. James Mercer's voice is amazing as usual; it was nice to hear it show up again on the Modest Mouse record. Sleeping Lessons is one of the best opening tracks I've heard in a while.
Turn On Me
“Of all the churning random hearts
Under the sun
Eventually fading into night,
These two are opening now
As we lie, I touch you
Under fuller light.
Girl, if you're a seascape
I'm a listing boat, for the thing carries every hope.
I invest in a single lie.
The choice is yours to be loved
Come away from an emptier boat.”
“Close your eyes to corral a virtue,
Is this fooling anyone else?
Never worked so long and hard,
To cement a failure”
#10 Thrice - The Alchemy Index: Fire
Thrice just keeps maturing and getting better with each release. Fire was one part of a release of 2 EPs this year, with 2 more to follow next year. This was a very ambitious project. Every song on this album has it's roots in fire, both lyrically and musically. It's just a heavy, burning stretch of 6 songs. The album starts with the strike of a match and catches fire from there until it finally burns out. The conclusion to the EP is a sonnet from the point of view of fire and the lyrics are beautiful although you'll probably have to read them because it's hard to make them out through the screaming. People who wanted another heavy Thrice album should be very happy with this one. I can't wait to hear the next 2 EPS, Earth and Air.
Burn the Fleet
“There are still good shepherds scattered,
but they're far between and few.
And the sheep's skin that the wolves all wear is so thin I see right through.
And I think maybe all that's need is some gas and open flame,
because I don't think that any one of them believes that fire can erase their names.
But I will see this city burn.”
“Well the old flag,
Will burn with the sand,
And a new one,
Will fly if we fail.
But the fire,
Continues to rise,
And it shows not a hint,
Of any fear in our eyes.”
#11 The Playing Favorites - I Remember When I Was Pretty
As you can see, there isn't much pop punk on this list. The combination of market saturation and good pop punk bands moving to a more mature sound have made it hard to find quality pop punk. If that's what you are looking for, you need this album. One of my favorite voices in music, Joey Cape, is involved so that's what initially put them on my radar. They are also on a great record label called Suburban Home Records which is where I first heard a few songs and immediately pre-ordered the vinyl. The band consists of a bunch of friends who just sat down and wrote some songs and recorded them. No label pressures or deadlines were involved. What resulted is a cohesive effort written by 4 people including Joey Cape from Lagwagon/Bad Astronaut/Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Marko Desantis from Sugarcult. I listened to the album at work on repeat for at least a week. The songs are just so catchy and energetic. It's a breath of fresh air in a genre that is spreading itself too thin. This is further proof that anything Joey Cape touches is worth a listen.
“So impressed with your wallet size
She'll overlook your hollow eyes
But I'm the one who gets to hear her cry on the phone.”
“I don't mind if I get strung out,
If she picks me up when I'm down
I need someone to love
And I think I might need a drug I can put my arms around”
#12 Motion City Soundtrack - Even If It Kills Me
Motion City Soundtrack rarely disappoints. Their last album was a bit on the weak side compared to their debut but it was still a great album. They came closer to the first album with this release and I don't think I can expect much more since it sounds as if they are moving away from the quirky things I loved so much about their debut. I can't complain about a band maturing though because this album is stellar. The songs are becoming poppier and poppier with each release. The one thing that keeps them rooted in their early material are the lyrics. Justin crafts witty and a lot of times self deprecating verses that stick in your mind long after the record stops. My favorite thing about MCS is the moog and there is plenty of it on this album. I saw them perform some of these songs live before the album came out and they were awesome. It's no secret that MCS is one of my favorite live bands and i feel these songs will translate well to the high energy shows they are known for putting on.
It Had To Be You
Even If It Kills Me
Fell In Love Without You
“They say what doesn't kill us makes us who we are.
All this time and everything's changed
But I still feel the same.
All good things eventually end and get lost down the drain.
What a disaster it would be if you discovered that I cared
A little too much for friends, but not enough to share.”
“I wonder if I'll ever lose my mind
I tried hard for a while but then I kind of gave up
Winter is a killer when the sun goes down
'I'm really not as stubborn as I seem'
Said the knuckle to the concrete
But I'm too tired to go to sleep tonight
And I'm too weak to follow dreams tonight
For the first time in a long time I can say that I want to try
To get better and overcome each moment
In my own way”
#13 Radiohead - In Rainbows
I'm going to get a lot of shit for this being on my list but I don't care. I have never been much of a radiohead fan but the album was essentially free so I gave it a shot. This album really surprised me. It has a lot more structure and coherence than some of their recent releases. The album starts off with a great song and just keeps on churning out well crafted songs until the end. I can actually relate to some of the lyrics, which I was not expecting at all. Thom Yorke's voice is rather soothing on these songs rather than being annoying as I had come to expect in the past. It's impossible to talk about this release without touching on the way it was released. It was a very inventive way to cut out the labels and avoid an album leak. Of course we can't look at this as a new model because a band without the following of Radiohead would surely fail. I think the best part of this release was the fact that not even the blogs and press had copies until it came out so there was a fresh discussion online that everyone could take part in at the same time.
“How come I end up where I started?
How come I end up where I went wrong?
Won't take my eyes off the ball again
You reel me out then you cut the string”
“In the deepest ocean
The bottom of the sea
They turn me
Why should I stay here?
Why should I stay?
I'd be crazy not to follow
Follow where you lead
They turn me
Turn me on to phantoms
I follow to the edge of the earth
And fall off
If they get the chance”