Albums of 2008
I spend a notable portion of my time searching for music that is new to me. These are albums that I discovered or rediscovered this year that I was impacted by and spent a significant amount of time listening to and thinking about. There are so many good albums from the past and I encourage you to listen to the following albums as they are all as good or better than the albums that came out this year:
ABBA - The Visitors
Allen Touissant - From a Whisper to a Scream
Arthur Russell - World of EchoAztec Camera - High Land, Hard Rain
Big Audio Dynamite - This is Big Audio Dynamite
Blancmange - Happy Families
Bruce Springsteen - The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
Charles Mingus - A Modern Jazz Symposium
Charlie Haden & The Liberation Music Orchestra - The Ballad of the Fallen
Chris MacGregor's Brotherhood of Breath - S/t
The English Beat -Special Beat Service
Jose Afonso - Cantigas do Maio
Julia Shamas Holter - Eating the Stars
L. Voag - The Way OutLouis Moholo - Spirits Rejoice!
Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth
The Passage - Pin DropRahsaan Roland Kirk - Volunteered Slavery
Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstacy
Sudden Sway - Spacemate
Tom Ze - Estudando de Samba
Van Dyke Parks - s/t
Van Morrison - Saint Dominic's Preview, It's Too Late to Stop Now, Veedon Fleece
Victor Jara - Te Recuerdo Amanda
Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy
Win - Freaky Trigger
Girl Talk and Of Montreal - TMI
There are commercials you might see at 3 in the morning for oldies compilations where it will say the name of the artist and then show a clip of them performing on American bandstand. Wings "Band on the Run", Sly and the Family Stone "Everyday People". You hear a seven second snippet, and then the next bit kicks in. If you stay up all night, these commercials may come on seven, ten times. They become their own song entities, the best parts stick out and cling together. Night Ripper and Skeletal Lamping are two albums that reminded me of this phenomenon - rushing at you with lots of pointings-at of greats past (NR obv more explicitly). They overwhelm, but once you accept this, once seen all at once and then bit by bit (how many of us have visited the wiki page for Night Ripper to see where the best bits came from? How many of us downloaded "In a Big Country" because of this?), there are some really rewarding moments. Near the end of "What Its All About", I felt this wow moment, Jackson Five and Queen? what great invention! Or of Montreal's statements - 'when we get together, its always hot magic' that Kevin wrote and dressed in the spirit of Prince and other soul-pop phantoms, they stand out now more heart-rousing, more ostentatious, than many of their tame contemporaries. Keep aimin!
Arthur Russell - Crate Digging
Arthur Russell only released one album in his lifetime (World of Echo, the third album of his to get after Another Thought and Calling Out of Context). This is the fifth album-length release (if you count First Thought Best Thought) following his death. It is the least consistent, but gives the best idea of his wingspan. The first part is gentle cowboy croonings, the second part is awkward loft sketches at NY downtownness and the third part (my favorite) is fresh jewelled beats dropped from angel places. "Habit of You", and "Hey! How Does Everybody Know" with their running through opening doors, glee and dance drums, unstoppable! "Big Moon", "Janine", very great. "Your Motion Says" < Terrific! Your eyes they are just glances, your mouth it is just kisses, your hand is just a handshake and I am just another guy! Lyrics of the year, finally heard.
Spencer Owen and Spencer Owen and Spencer Owen - Genius bedroom leaving the comfort
The Light Touch is a big step forwards, working outside of his bedroom in a studio for the first time and has some AMAZING songs - Jeu de Treize a clapalong city epiphany and Alex in the Shower about worrying about death and the Light Touch where rhythmless drums and increasingly unrestrained voice inviting us to let go. Spencer Owen's Meaningless Query (a cover album) contains a "You Don't Love Me When I Cry" that floors as the drums bend in sympathy with the space shuttle-launch vocals nearing Nyro's and a how'd-he-do-that faithful "Crosseyed + Painless". ITunes Changed My Life is the strangest of these albums, created with brief loops of popular and obscure tunes as the backdrops. "Archeology Song" pits a repeating bass figure and squawking guitar to interweaving vocal harmonies as he declares 'All your children are poor unfortunate victims of systems beyond their control'. The opener "Interviewing..." is a great introduction to the pop language of Spencer, the dialogue between now and past in one's head coming out of the speakers. Maybe the most indicative snippet of the album is the outtake laughter at the end of this album's version of "Jeu de Treize", the whole disc was recorded in two days, I hear.
Pangea and Vampire Weekend - Wow pop
On September 13th 2008, I was talking to someone out by their car at the Chavez co-op when Pangea started playing. I heard the first notes and started SPRINTING towards where they were playing. I had seen them the year previous and remember being pleasantly surprised. They were acoustic then and each song had some magic in it. This time it was electric piano and bass and drums, they opened with "Waste of Time" (sounds just as great on CD as live). I remember rushing into the room they were playing and moving up front and a steady stream of amazement as I felt what it must have been like to own a great seven inch record, like the Distractions, like the Chills, like Orange Juice but different, but with the same POSSIBILITIES. These five songs are all almost perfect (and available to hear at their myspace). For about two weeks, my housemates would know I was coming home because the melody from "You Sleep Too Much" would come whistling from my mouth all the way down the block.
Vampire Weekend's album is really good too, even though they cut "Boston", which was my fave (maybe because of the 'when you went to the kitchen I prentended you were dead/a morbid streak runs through my family' lyric < this aside I think a key piece to my appreciation of this band). We listened to it a lot in the car and Conner finally came around to it (oh, so THIS is how you want me to drum). I have John Darnielle to thank for spotting these guys early. I remember last year or earlier clicking over to their myspace at his suggestion and being pleasantly startled.
Max Tundra and Portishead - Older Bolder
Portishead is a band from the nineties. I haven't heard any of their albums from the earlier period. I imagine the songs would be too slow and sad for my tastes (=bright and quick). I saw a post on matrixsynth.blogspot.com (a top fave) where the nonsinging band member was going through crates of microphones and explaining what each of them were good for: bass drum, vocals, old synthesizers. "Machine Gun" was an AMAZING song that popped up a few times on unexpected speakers. This is an easier more digestible Scott Walker's the Drift.
I waited a long time for Max Tundras. I remember Summer 2000or1 downloading on Napster his first album Some Best Friend You Turned Out to Be along with some other electronic things at Dan Frank's house and burning them to CDR in the cold morning light and returning to my house and plopping down on the couch and trying to sleep, but I couldn't. The music was too busy, my head couldn't distract itself from trying to understand but I didn't want to get up, I needed to sleep, even if laying down wasn't panning out. I remember finally drifting off and Trevor coming over and scraping a rake against the window above my head - it was in the top five scariest moments of my life with compressed everythingmusic and blankety darkness tangle and what appeared to be a murderous muck monster's blade hand. Probably stayed up another day or two straight after that. I'm glad his two albums later came out. Its a mischevious, full, cold one.
Performances of the year- Chills and thrills
The El Hobos < They have maybe broken up? Responsible for about two months of solid heart light
Spencer Owen (with Sandy Owen and Sean Smith)
Birds Fled from Me