Monday, October 12, 2009

Port O'Brien: Threadbare

Admittedly, I missed the boat when these guys came out with All We Could Do Was Sing in '08. That album has been stuck in my eMusic queue for a long time, so when Threadbare came out last week, I did a very un-Micah-like thing and picked up the newer album instead of the well-received-but-somewhat-overlooked debut after I gave Threadbare a couple of spins over on their Myspace (yes, you can stream full albums over there sometimes ... which is the only reason to ever go on Myspace).

One thing I knew about Port O'Brien before I picked up Threadbare is that Van Pierszalowski, the lead singer, has worked on his father's commercial fishing boat up in Alaska. I was prepared to be overwhelmed with a bunch of Decemberists-esque nautically-themed tunes. However, thankfully (?), the songs cover a wide array of topics (although there are references to boats, salt water, etc.). The sing-along sentiment, enhanced by Cambria Goodwin's (the other founding member) and others' background vocals, give POB's songs a bit of a fisherman's ship vibe, but the banjo keeps your feet firmly planted on the dock.

Although I don't necessarily know what the single "My Will Is Good" (video below) is about (is he leaving someone or trying to get back with someone?), I really enjoy it. It's sort of got a Funeral-era-Arcade-Fire-meets-Built-to-Spill feel to it. My favorite track, however, is the song that follows "My Will..." on the album: "Oslo Campfire" (video below). Its lyrics are straightforward and heartbreaking: "Living through your past and dreaming through your son / Will get you nowhere fast and leave you f***ed." Again, the background vocals are somewhat reminiscent of those from Arcade Fire's Funeral, but also its own feel. I also need to downplay the Arcade Fire angle because there are plenty of other sounds present on the album (Modest Mouse, Neil Young, The Shins, Built to Spill, Rogue Wave, etc.), and POB definitely rides their own sonic wave (ba-dum-chh). Other standout tracks: "Tree Bones," "Sour Milk / Salt Water," and "Love Me Through."

Blurb: The curse of the sophomore slump doesn't plague Port O'Brien. At all. In fact, Threadbare is better--for my money--than their debut. I wish, however, that some of the slower songs were cut in favor of more upbeat ones, which happen to be the cream of the album.
Grade: B

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Choir of Young Believers: This Is for the White in Your Eyes

Choir of Young Believers does't have the weirdest name in indie rock, but it's kinda up there (Architecture in Helsinki or Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin have that honor). What is a bit weird--in a good way--is their sound. I'm not sure how to describe it, but if I had to give it a go, I'd say it's part Fleet Foxes (lead singer's voice/lots of reverb) with an Arcade-Fire-on-horse-tranquilizers backing band. The band's label says CoYB makes musical nods to influences diverse as Roy Orbison, Pixies, The Beach Boys, and Hank Williams (and you thought Arcade Fire on horse tranquilizers was weird!).

CoYB is fronted by Jannis Noya Makrigiannis. Jannis was involved in Copenhagen's underground indie scene for a few years before he took a Justin Vernon-esque trip in 2006 and isolated himself to discover his new sound. Instead of a cabin in Wisconsin, Jannis took refuge on the Greek island of Samos. When he returned to Denmark, Jannis formed CoYB, which is sometimes just Jannis on guitar and a cellist (see YouTube video below), but at other times the CoYB stage contains seven other musicians in addition to Jannis (see Vimeo video below).

"Action/Reaction," the album's upbeat single, is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, which often showcases a melancholy melody and lyrics from "Next Summer": "Next summer I will return, / I'll be back, / I'll break your heart." Sometimes the song titles are enough to depress you ("Hollow Talk" and "Why Must It Always Be This Way" for example). Unlike Phoenix--a band that also doesn't sing in their native tongue--CoYB's straightfoward lyrics don't come off as cheesy: "Where do you go when it all goes down, / You battle ballance, your patterns, / Back to all the thoughts that they killed your youth, / No one deserves this" from the track "Claustrophobia."

Even though the album seems full of downers, it doesn't depress me. The music is gorgeous and the lyrics are cunning. I would've loved it if some of the faster-paced tunes from previous EPs (Burn the Flag) would have made cut, but I'll settle for these ten tracks.

Blurb: This Is for the White in Your Eyes wouldn't make the best background music at a party (see above: Phoenix), but it's a good album and one of 2009's best debuts.
Grade: B

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Patrick Watson: Wooden Arms

I first came across Patrick Watson in 2007 when his 2006 release, Close to Paradise, defeated Arcade Fire's Neon Bible for the Polaris Prize (the Canadian version of the Mercury Prize, which is the British version of the Grammys--if the Grammys had credibility and actually honored the albums that deserved to be awarded). At the time I scoffed and pretty much ignored Mr. Watson.

Well, last month I had some remaining downloads over at eMusic and I decided I'd use them on Paradise and finally see what all the fuss was about (two years late, I know!). Wow. Wow. I now understand--completely--why Paradise defeated the glow of Arcade Fire's Good Book (I'm not saying I agree, I'm simply saying I "get it"). A couple of weeks after picking up Paradise, I got my hands on Mr. Watson's latest (2009) release, Wooden Arms.

Since I acquired both albums within such a short time of each other, it was impossible not to compare them at every turn. At first, I was disappointed with Arms and I wanted to return to Paradise, but I kept listening and eventually Mr. Watson's Arms grew on me (although not in an I'm-a-four-armed-freak kind of way).

Arms doesn't have as many hits has Paradise has ("Close to Paradise," "Giver," "Luscious Life," "Drifters," and "Great Escape"), but it does boast a stable of strong tracks and it displays Watson's growth as he ventures further into sonic exploration (tracks like "Tracy's Waters," "Beijing," and "Fireweed" feature a bevy of rich, layered, and unique sounds). There is also the beautiful simplicity in "Man Like You," the simple and haunting nature of the title track and "Traveling Salesman," and the Americana (Canadicana?) that the song "Big Bird in a Small Cage" exhibits. Additionally, "Where the Wild Things Are" will likely be one of my top five songs from 2009 (sadly, no video exists ... yet).

Blurb: Perhaps Arms isn't the album that Paradise is, but it's still a fine album with a pair of the best songs of the year--"Wild Things" and "Tracy's Waters"--and it's probably going to be my pick for this year's Polaris Prize.
Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Miike Snow: Miike Snow

I was unaware there was any amount of hype around Miike Snow's self-titled debut. Never having heard anything, a friend of mine passed along this album back in early July and it really grew on me. I had previewed the album on Amazon, but I tell ya, those 30-second clips just aren't enough sometimes. (I purchased a Gentleman Jesse album based on a series of 30-second clips and man do I regret that. I listened to that album once and deleted it.)

Miike Snow is a collection of three Swedes that have been in the biz for a while. They were all intricately involved in the composition of Britney Spears' song "Toxic." I had actually read that somewhere before I heard the album, so I was prejudiced against Miike; I was looking for reasons to dislike them. However, similar to their fellow countrymen Peter Bjorn & John, Miike Snow knows how to lay down electronic beats. However, they do not sound like PB&J; I would describe them as Animal Collective for Dummies (in other words, if Animal Collective had created an album for the average listener). Miike Snow sort of sounds like Ratatat remixing Passion Pit covering Animal Collective (at least to my ears).

I would like this album even more if it were harder hitting at points or evidenced more depth or layers, but maybe the lack thereof is why I'm calling this album Animal Collective for Dummies. The album also suffers a bit from having its best track--"Animal"--as its first track. When the bar is raised at the very beginning, the other songs simply can't measure up.

: If you were hesitant to join the [Animal] Collective, Miike Snow makes resistance a little less futile. :)
Grade: B

The Moondoggies: Don't Be a Stranger

I stumbled across The Moondoggies on an NPR blog detailing the "Top 11 Debut Albums of 2008." I listened to their stuff and put them on my Amazon wishlist, but my wish didn't come true until three weeks ago. Initially I dismissed The Moondoggies as a poor man's Blitzen Trapper, but after giving Don't Be a Stranger a full spin, I quickly realized the error of my ways. There are strains of BT in there, but also Dr. Dog, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Band, and even Wilco. Yes, I think their sound is that diverse.

There's just something magical about [semi-Southern] rock, summer, and a road trip. I piped this album through my stereo as I traveled to my parents' house for the 4th of July and what a glorious soundtrack Stranger proved to be. I can't think of an album I'd rather have blaring while I'm driving down the highway with the windows rolled down.

The somewhat surprising aspect of Stranger, especially since these boys are from Seattle, is the [mostly successful] employment another Southern tradition: gospel. This is most evident in the song "Jesus on the Mainline," but it feels less forced in "Save My Soul," and
"Ain't No Lord," the latter of which boldly proclaims: "Ain't no Lord gonna judge me now, / Ain't no one gonna put me down, / Ain't no home to rest my bones, / Ain't no woman gonna put me down." Clearly, The Moondoggies have also embraced another Southern tradition: abusing the English language. :)

Blurb: Don't Be a Stranger is not only one of last year's best debut albums, it's one of last year's best records. Period... err, exclamation point!

: A

Unfortunately, they don't have a music video, so all I could find were live performances and and a "video" ... none of these are my favorite songs:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shotgun Stories

It seems like I went all semester without seeing a great movie. I liked Slumdog, but thought it was a bit overrated (and maybe a bit too saccharin?). Shotgun Stories, however, completely bowled me over. As soon as I finished watching it, I turned right around and watched the director's commentary. I have no clue how this slipped by big film festivals, the Oscars, and year-end lists ostensibly unnoticed and remarkably unheralded.

Shotgun Stories tells the tale of two different families: one that was abandoned by their father, another that was raised by that same formerly-fleeing father. The abandoned children were left at the mercy of their unloving mother in a working-class world, while the father's new family experienced the love, support, and relative financial prosperity that he provided.

The father dies near the film's outset (he never appears on screen), and these two previously separate worlds collide, once Son, the eldest of the three abandoned boys, speaks his mind at the father's funeral (their father's lack of devotion is most evident--but never explicitly explained--by the fact that the children have the names Son, Boy, and Kid). The other family, the ones that benefited from their father's sobriety and religious conversion, are angered by Son's disparaging eulogy, and what emerges is a modern tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions.

The film's writer and director, Jeff Nichols, grew up Arkansas and the film is set in its rural areas. The focus on the area's natural beauty, simple surroundings, and long scene transitions had me convinced that Nichols was ripping off David Gordon Green ... until I watched the commentary and found out they had been classmates at film school and DGG put his own cash into the film when he became one of its producers. Furthermore, the film's cameras and second unit were the very same that DGG employed in George Washington and perennial Cine-Men favorite, All The Real Girls. Thus, I excused Nichols from any sort of infringement into DGG's territory.

The surprise for me here was Michael Shannon, the actor that played Son. I couldn't remember seeing him in anything and the trailer actually made me a bit skeptical of his talent, but his calculated and contained rage were perfectly portrayed for what his character embodied. A minor character (that actually plays an important role) named Shampoo provided a bit of necessary laughter to offset the film's deadly serious tone.

Blurb: An absolutely outstanding piece of cinema that somehow was--and still is--under the radar. I can't wait for Jeff Nichols' next project, even though it's entitled Goat.
Grade: A+

Here's the trailer if you want:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fanfarlo: Reservoir

So I realize I haven't blogged about any music or movies since February. Well, for the most part,I haven't had anything spectacular in either category come my way. There have been some good albums, and I probably should've blogged about Other Lives' (FKA Kunek) self-titled album (available at Amazon for $5!), but for sheer laziness I didn't do it. (By the way, that album is real, and it's spectacular.)

I came across Fanfarlo in article about bands people love that nobody knows. I was instantly smitten. Instantly. Smitten. I looked up the band and found out their album hadn't released yet, but when it became available this week, I snatched it up (only $5.99 on iTunes!). I really wanted to wait for it to come out on eMusic, but I simply couldn't wait (eMusic > Amazon > iTunes).

Describing Fanfarlo's sound is surprisingly easy: it's Beirut meets Ra Ra Riot versus Arcade Fire. I actually think that's a perfect description. These guys have been around since 2006, dropping a two-song EP each year, so I don't think they consciously took bits and/or pieces from any of the abovementioned bands (plus, Fanfarlo's first EP came out before Beirut and Ra Ra Riot debuted). However, even if Fanfarlo totally stole their sound from those bands (which, again, I don't think they did), I still wouldn't care because those are somewhat disparate sounds and they do such a great job melding them into one sound.

The lyrics are fun, playful, and downright simple at times, but it contrasts well with the complex melodies of--get this--violin, keyboard, mandolin, saw (SAW!), bass, banjo, trumpet, glockenspeil, saxophone, clarinet, and guitar. Seriously! The lyrics can also be sufficiently ambiguous, which meshes perfectly with the musical melancholia that emerges in songs like "Comets" and "If It Is Growing."

Blurb: A great mixture of the sounds of a few different bands. These guys are my new favorite.
Final Grade: A

There's no video for my favorite song ("The Walls are Coming Down," which is a dead ringer for a Zach Condon production), so here are songs for which videos are available. Enjoy (and then go buy the album!):

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Best Music of 2008: #5-1

#5. Kings of Leon -Only by the Night
Initially I was a little disappointed with Night, but after I put it aside for a few weeks, I went back to it and it became a top-ten album. They were vaulted into the top five after I saw them in Indy a couple of weeks back (video below). This album definitely seems like it's poised for--and has already received some--mainstream success with its spic-and-span production value. There's some grit or something missing in Night. I can't quite put my fingers on it, but there's something Because of the Times had that Night lacks. However, it's still a really good album that has definitely broadened the fan base. Here's "On Call," probably my favorite song from the show.

#4. Beck - Modern Guilt
This album was conspicuously absent from most year-end lists. It got good reviews when it came out, so I can't really understand what happened. Guilt might just be my favorite Beck album (and perhaps I owe it all to producer Danger Mouse). I'm not really a fan of his '90s stuff--it's fine but purposeful dissonance has never floated my boat. Guero was one of my top albums from '05, but I was disappointed with The Information (2007), so I didn't really know what to expect when Guilt dropped back in July. I'm sure [super producer] Danger Mouse helped Beck focus to refine Guilt's sound. I also thought Beck's lyrics were stronger on Guilt than on Information. My favorite tracks are "Youthless," "Walls," "Orphans," and "Gamma Ray," the video for which is featured here (again, the video is weird... which seems to be a theme for a lot of the videos I've posted):

#3. Sigur Ros -
Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
As was the case with the Kings of Leon album, I was also initially disappointed with Med Sud. I wasn't bothered by the fact they went more accoustic with guitars or whatever, it's simply the fact that their '05 release Takk... is one of my favorite albums of all time. However, seeing Sigur Ros in concert back in September certainly gave me a new perspective on Med Sud. I still don't think it's as good as Takk..., but I like it more than ( ). "Gobledigook," "Inni Myr," and "Vid Spilum" are all five-star tracks and can hold their own against other amazing songs such as [my all-time fave] "Saeglopur", "Hoppipolla," and "Glosoli." If you ever get the chance, catch their show... it's fantastic (in the words of Flight of the Conchords, "definitely in the top three"). This outdoor performance [of "Inni Myr"] doesn't convey it, but they put on a visually spectacular show:

#2. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Although Emma was released in 2007, it was a very limited release and I didn't stumble upon it until JagJaguar released it in February of '08. I instantly fell in love and told just about everybody that would listen to buy this album. First, Emma deals a lot with heartbreak, something I was going through at this time last year, so it got a lot of bonus points for that. But even when I listen to it today, I'm still amazed at how haunting and beautiful it remains. Justin Vernon (AKA Bon Iver) wrote and recorded most of the album on a now-famous hiatus in a Wisconsin cabin during the winter, chopping wood for heat and hunting his own food. That solitude permeates the album, but it's semi-melancholoy nature doesn't depress becuase his falsetto voice seems uplifting--even when its bellowing out a tune about lost love. I'm aleady in love with Blood Bank, and I can't wait for his next LP (although that song "Woods" seems like a cheap Imogen Heap knock off). You can also hear his song, "Bracket, WI" on the righthand side of this blog (it's part of one of the greatest for-charity compliations ever). This music video for "The Wolves" might give you a sense of Vernon's surroundings as he wrote Emma.

#1. Horse Feathers - House with no Home
For those of you keeping score at home, this is the third Portland-based band to make the list (Starf***er and Blitzen Trapper being the other two). How this album escaped every year-end list I came across seems absolutely befuddling, bemusing, bewildering, and--with all due respect--just plain dumb (what? I said with all due respect). The only good thing about their absence from those lists is that it sets mine apart from the rest of the field (a hipster requirement, to be sure), but I would've loved for them to have gotten the publicity. I was at their show in November and they produce America's most beautiful music. There's no doubt. Their music is just as hauntingly beautiful as Bon Iver, except it's got a cello and a violin... instruments that make almost any song better! :) "Curs in the Weeds" might be my favorite song from 2008. Just. Freaking. Beautiful. I also really enjoy "Working Poor," one of the faster-paced songs from Home. Here's the aforementioned "Curs":

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More music for your eyebulbs

Okay ... so I saw this video and instantly loved it. I bought the album, and it's not so good. It's kind of like that album by The Feeling ... you know the one. It's got that song "Fill My Little World" - really good. The rest of the album is a big w-o-t wast of time.

Back to Matt and Kim. Their first album (self titled, released 2006) is like that Feeling album sans "Fill My Little World." That's right, avoid it. In fact, if you see it somewhere in a social setting don't even give it a head nod of acknowledgment.

Their whole sound is kind of in the vein of the minimalist thing the White Stripes do (did?). And unlike Jack and Meg they are still married. Instead of drums and guitar, Matt and Kim use drums and synth/keyboard. Sounds workable right? They're slowly but surely honing their craft.

The good news is that Matt and Kim's newest album, Grand, is much, much better. More than one good song, in fact. I will bet you (stakes tbd) that you will like "Daylight" (featured in this video) and "Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare."

As I mentioned, this is the "Daylight" music video. Delightful really. They look so happy! Seriously, we gotta figure out a way to bottle this!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Best Music of 2008: #10-6

We made it to the top ten! (Facebookers: you know where to go... and I mean that in the nicest possible way.)

#10. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
At the start of 2008, I had never even heard of these Portlanders. While the 2007 song "Wild Mountain Nation" is tremendous, that album is a less stellar than it's title track, possessing some of the worst parts of early Beck (schizo electrono-rock with purposeful dissonance and auditory overload). Although I've somewhat decried apparent mainstream-ization of albums *cough Dear Science cough*, Blitzen Trapper's latest effort benefits from a sonic scalpel, likely applied by the guys over at Sub Pop. By toning down the worst parts of the band and boosting the best, BT put together a solid album (although it probably wouldn't be in the top 10 if I hadn't seen them in concert in November... hearing their songs evokes memories of their very lively show; there's no doubt in my mind if I had seen The Black Keys this year, Blitzen Trapper would be knocked out of this spot). "Furr" isn't my favorite track off the album of the same name, but it's got a cool video (and is evidence of BT's storytelling):

#9. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
While that awesome-but-quickly-ubiquitous-and-subsequently-annoying song "Crazy" got all the fame, I was a bigger fan of St. Elsewhere's weirder tracks, like "Go-Go-Gadget Gospel" and "Transformers." Odd Couple is the triumph of the weird-but-good vibe from their debut album. However, while bands with a similar sound (TVotR) seems to get an insane amount of praise, the fact that Odd Couple was left out of so many best-of lists seems--wait for it--odd, especially given how much cred Danger Mouse seems to have. One of the reasons Odd Couple is so high in my countdown is the number of listens this album garnered: just like Konk, this album stayed in my car's six-disc player from it's release date until one or two months ago. Here's the video for "Going On," one of my favorite tracks off the album:

. Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Yet another artist with whom I was unfamiliar at the outset of this past year. This sprightly Swedish twentysomething burst onto the scene thanks to the work of Bjorn (of Peter Bjorn & John fame) and you can tell--or at least I think I can tell--his influence: electronic beats and sometimes-slightly-off-key tones. This album is full of a few songs that will become big singles: "I'm Good, I'm Gone," "Breaking it Up," "Complaint Department," "Dance, Dance, Dance," and "Little Bit." If those saw the light of day on MTV (or whatever it is that influences high schoolers), the kids would be eating it up. For now, I'll keep things the way they are (I'm a little bit in love with her). Here's the [weird but good] video for "I'm Good, I'm Gone":

#7. Dr. Dog - Fate
When I saw these guys open for The Black Keys in '06, I thought they had a fun stage presence, but didn't think they'd amount to much. This is like, you know, one of the three or four times in my life that I've been wrong. Fate is a tremendous album that takes a few listens to really get into your head, but you later find yourself craving it, as I often do with the song "The Old Days" (video below). The songs are catchy without being cheesy; think Rooney, and then the exact opposite... sort of like if Spoon took PCP and heroine and then played a show at a trucker's bar in Philly. Genuine emotions are carried in each tune, and the lyrics can be a treat at times: not every band can question the meaning of life and get away with it. If they come back to the area anytime soon, I'll definitely show up... as long as nobody's head gets chopped off, like in "The Ark"; here's a studio version of my favorite song, "The Old Days":

"The Old Days" - Dr. Dog from LaundroMatinee on Vimeo.

#6. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
It took me a long time to get my hands on this album. I put it on my Amazon wishlist when it was released, but I could never scrounge enough cash together to actually buy it (or my cash went towards the purchase of other albums). Thankfully, some friends intervened and gave me a copy. While this album has received an unbelievable amount of praise (Pitchfork's #1 album), I tried not to hold that against it (I think the offices at Pitchfork have those leadership posters, but instead of inspirational words, they've got stuff like "Pride" and "Pretension" and "Braggadocio"). Some people have criticized FF for sounding like Band of Horses, and while there is a recognizable similarity, it doesn't bother me at all. With each listen, this album inched itself up this list, from initially being just outside the top 20 to being inside the top 10. If I had another month, it might take that next step into the top 5. Here's a great little stop-motion animation video for "White Winter Hymnal":

The top 5 is next...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Music for your eye-bulbs

Sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled list. People like you need these lists. Let's be honest, we all love them. But now I want to zoom in a bit on a single song.

Is this a good song? If you listen to it without the music video, you probably wouldn't think so. Do yourself a favor and watch while you listen. The combination is unbeatable. The music and video go together perfectly. Plus, I'm a sucker for animation. Love it. Love it like cheese.
My Morning Jacket - New Music - More Music Videos
Also ... Sorry about the commercial.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Best Music of 2008: #15-11

The countdown continues (Facebookers: see the original post to view the videos without having to leave the page)....

#15. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
The third major release for TVotR is a fine album as I've already stated, but it doesn't live up to the stunning sound of Return to Cookie Mountain (2006). Science seems to lack an "I Was a Lover" or a "Staring at the Sun," (although "DLZ" is a five-star song); furthermore, the album is dragged down by "Red Dress" and "Dancing Choose." Science feels like it was meant for more mainstream success, and I hope TVotR achieves it, but if you have to get one of their albums, try Cookie Mountain. Enjoy this totally weird video, "Golden Age":

"Golden Age" - TV On The Radio

#14. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
The first single released from Stairs was "I Will Possess Your Heart," a near-nine-minute track that was terribly repetitive for the first four minutes. Once you get past those four minutes, it's a fine song, but I think that track turned a lot of people off to the album before it was even released. Stairs, while not as good as Transatlanticism or Plans, is still a decent record. In my opinion, there is only one five-star song on the album: "Grapevine Fires," a tale of loss and love. While I enjoy DCfC, most of their songs are about love/relationships (although "Bixby Canyon Bridge" is an obvious--and welcome--deviation). On the other hand, when I got this album , I was dealing with those issues, so the album resonated with me more than if I had somehow stumbled upon an advance copy in '07. I enjoyed "Your New Twin Sized Bed" and "The Ice Is Getting Thinner," but here is the aforementioned "Grapevine Fires" (a live, in-studio version):

. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Talk about hype! This album got so much pre-release buzz, I was fearful they would be another Arctic Monkeys (all hype, no talent). And, after my initial listen, I thought my fears had been confirmed, but I kept the album on repeat (alternating with Dear Science) while I painted my bedroom and by the time I finished, I really liked the album (should I blame the paint fumes?). I was also annoyed that everybody thought it was so clever that somebody sang about grammar in a song... "Like, oh my God, four young lads from an Ivy League school that wrote a song called 'Oxford Comma'!" I felt like VW was trying too hard to be clever. These guys aren't the LeBron James of hype--where they live up to and then exceed the hype--but they certainly have come close to justifying the hype. Plus, it wasn't their fault a couple of music blogs went nuts over their stuff. There isn't a quality music video available for my favorite song, "Walcott," and although I don't care for the song, the video for "Oxford Comma" has a cool, Wes Anderson vibe to it; the video for "A-Punk" demonstrates VW's fun nature and dancability (which is not, in any way, related to drinkability):

"A-Punk" - Vampire Weekend

#12. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
As I've previously mentioned, I'm more than willing to indulge in a little neo-'80s electronica. MGMT not only embodies that genre, they nearly perfected it in 2008. I have already listed several albums described as "fun" (#20, #19, #13) and that word also fits for Oracular. MGMT are also East Coast college kids, but [thankfully?] they didn't get the press that Vampire Weekend did. While I'm not in love with the whole album (I usually skip "The Youth" and "4th Dimension"), Oracular is home to three songs that are, well, spectacular. "Electric Feel" definitely has some sort of Prince thing going on, but it's terribly fun. "Kids" is another terrific song from the album. However, the absolute stand-out track is "Time to Pretend." The song is a ridiculous parody of the American dream: making music, making money, going to Paris, shooting heroine, marrying a model, then divorcing said model after having kids, but then finding another model to marry. For me, that's much more clever than "Oxford Comma." Dropping acid right before this video might increase your viewing pleasure:

"Time To Pretend" - MGMT

#11. The Black Keys - Attack & Release
These Ohio natives know how to rock. I saw them at The Vogue in December of '06 (the timing of their '08 didn't mesh with my schedule) and they melted my face off. You might think that two dudes--one on drums and the other on guitar--would produce a pretty sparse sound, but it totally works. Plus, on Attack, TBK employed super producer Danger Mouse (who we'll run into later in the countdown... twice). It took me a while to warm up to the album--it's a different sound, no doubt due to Danger Mouse--but I eventually started digging it. While I prefer the raucous tunes of Rubber Factory (2004) and Thickfreakness (2003), Attack was a welcome change from the sometimes stale sound of Magic Potion (2006). Need some evidence of their rock 'n' roll greatness? Check out "I Got Mine" from their show at the Crystal Ballroom (and yes, I am totally envious of that sweet beard):

#10-6 coming soon...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Best Music of 2008: #16-20

I realize I'm a little late to the year-end-list party (not to be confused with My Year In Lists), but I had to wait this long to acquire some of the albums I suspected would be on this list. Furthermore, if I don't do it now, it will be 2009 before I get my mitts on all the good albums from the past year. The bands which produced good albums in 2008 which I have yet to completely acquire (I have singles from most of them), and thus, will not appear on this list, are as follows (in no order): Anathallo, Chad VanGaalen, Frightened Rabbit, King Khan & The Shrines, Santogold, Whitely, Wild Sweet Orange, Los Campesinos!, Gentleman Jesse, Mason Proper, My Brightest Diamond, Pale Young Gentlemen, The Acorn, The Walkmen, Slow Runner, and the Welcome Wagon. It's possible--though unlikely--that all of those albums would've made their way into this year-end list if I had their works. That caveat outtathaway, let's get to work (if you're reading this on Facebook, it might be best to head over to the original post so you can listen to the tracks or watch videos without leaving the webpage).

#20. The Kooks - Konk
This is probably my guilty pleasure of the year. It's total schlock pop. This made the top twenty simply because I listened to this album a lot this year. I picked it up back in May and it stayed in my car's six-disc changer all summer. It's great driving music because it's totally catchy and cheesy and it's great sing-along stuff for the road. These guys are Arctic Monkeys, except not sixteen years old, and [far] less annoying. This isn't my favorite song of theirs, but it's only one of two available on YouTube:

#19. Starf**ker -
These electrono-pop-rockers from Portland are probably my most obscure band of the year. I stumbled upon them and their name immediately caught my attention--obviously--so I checked them out and fell in like (not love). The major drawback of this eponymous record is it's short run time (barely over 30 minutes). On the other hand, if these guys roll into town (Indy) any time soon, I'll definitely have to check them out because it looks like they put on a pretty fun show. The audio quality [on imeem] for my favorite song, "Pop Song," is a little poor, so feel free to check out "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second" or "German Love"; here's "Holly":

Holly - Starf***er

#18. Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
Dubbed "indie rock's favorite married couple" by my favorite music magazine, the Mates put out a quality album. I would describe them as New Pornographers lite/diet/jr. There aren't too many songs on Re-Arrange that knock you over, it's simply a solid album. Also, I'm glad to see that they've gotten paid recently... good for them! Indie rockers make so little, I love it when they can bring home the bacon and spread their tunes. Check out "Free," my favorite song off the album (with "Blue and Gold Print" and the title track running a close second).

You Are Free - Mates of State

#17. Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
I bought this album from Amazon's MP3 store for $1.99 the week it was released and it's been well worth the cash. The blend of guitar(s) and cello/violin is a sweet sound; whether it's been Silverchair (Diorama/Young Modern) or Andrew Bird, I'm always a fan of the mixture of those instruments. Ra Ra is sort of an ecstatic version of Arcade Fire, minus the organs... and the depression. Here's a video for "Ghost Under Rocks" (and the video for "Dying is Fine" is also pretty cool):

#16. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
The White Stripes have been pretty hit-and-miss with me--I usually love half the album and hate the other half, and the first Raconteurs album didn't impress me. This album, however, is a different story. It's fairly solid throughout, and there's only one or two songs I skip, which is pretty good for 14 tracks. Consolers is plain old rock 'n' roll... and I'm not complaining. Here's a live, in-studio version of my favorite song, "Carolina Drama," a folk diddy with a violent end:

#15-11 coming soon....