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":

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