Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Favorite Albums of the Decade

Okay, it's time. I'm going to try to limit this list to ten records that I listened to and loved consistently over the whole course of the decade. There are others that I've only recently discovered that are superb, but I'm only going to list the albums that have been absolute favorites.

10. Drunken Lullabies - Flogging Molly

9. Icky Thump - The White Stripes

8. If We Can't Trust the Doctors - Blanche

7. The Crane Wife - The Decemberists

6. Castaways and Cutouts - The Decemberists

5. No More Kings - No More Kings

4. The Shepherd's Dog - Iron & Wine

3. This Side - Nickel Creek

2. Not All Who Wander are Lost - Chris Thile

1. White Blood Cells - The White Stripes

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top 10 Records of 2008

It was weird listening to NPR's music podcast, as the whole panel was saying that last year was a much better year for records, but I really have to disagree. I had a horrible time trying to decide which of the fantastic albums of 2008 I liked the best.

10. Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile - Self Titled
It's unfair how brilliant these two are. Edgar Meyer is probably the best double-bassist in the world and Chris Thile wins my vote for best mandolinist hands down. This record didn't get my attention quite as much as Chris Thile's duet with Mike Marshall, but it's still full of great songs of unfathomable technical skill. I'd recommend it to anyone. Two excellent tracks are "Slow Song for a Dog" and "Fence Post in the Front Yard."

9. Stay Positive - The Hold Steady
Once again, The Hold Steady made a great record. A couple of the songs got a bit too repetitive for me, as is the danger with this band. Overall though, the songs that stood out really stood out. They played a great live show here as well. My favorite tracks are "Constructive Summer" and "One for the Cutters."

8. Calexico - Carried to Dust
Another excellent album from Calexico. I think it goes back to a more southwestern sound than Garden Ruin had. Happily, there's another collaboration song with Sam Beam on this one, following from He Lays in the Reins, one of the finest recordings ever made. My favorite track is certainly "Victor Jara's Hands," but another great one is "House of Valparaiso."

7. Ben Folds - Way to Normal
I've heard very few other people even mention this album, but I loved it. Ben Folds is such a great songwriter and I love that he's never stopped expanding his style and sound. There are some really funny moments on this album as well. Featuring Regina Spektor never hurts either. Hear "You Don't Know Me," "Free Coffee," and "Effington."

6. Dr. Dog - Fate
This album is tons of fun. They played it on the overhead in my store for several weeks and I enjoyed it every time. Enough so that I still got it for myself after they pulled it off the in-store rotation. That's saying quite a bit. "The Breeze" and "Army of Ancients" are notable.

5. Vampire Weekend - Self Titled
Lots of people seem to have gotten tired of or have forgotten about Vampire Weekend, and while I admit that I haven't pulled this one out in some time, it's still a fantastic record and when it came out, I listened to it over and over. It's a really unique sound and I think it's a blast. My favorites are "Oxford Comma" and "Walcott."

4. Consolers of the Lonely - The Raconteurs
I have to give the love to the Raconteurs for this album, produced and released in less than a month. They threw us for a loop when they announced it and released it two weeks later. It's great though. It provided what the first record had and gave me what I asked for, which was a longer running time. Every song is good, but I'll pull out "The Switch and the Spur" and "Five on the Five" as two of the best.

3. Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet - Self Titled
This record is gorgeous. It features Abigail singing over two banjos (one by Bela Fleck, I might mention) a violin and a cello. It's just the most haunting and beautiful combination and I love it. She also likes to write songs in Chinese every once in a while, adding a neat element to this kind of music. Standout tracks are "A Fuller Wine" and "Great Big Wall in China."

2. Fleet Foxes - Self Titled
Another incredibly beautiful record. It sounds to me like taking the Beach Boys to the Appalachians, combining those great vocal harmonies with lovely acoustic instrumentation. I can't wait to hear more from them. My favorites are probably "White Winter Hymnal" and "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song."

1. Punch Brothers - Punch
Chris Thile twice on the list! This album is a masterpiece, in my opinion. It's five of the best acoustic musicians alive today, playing some really complicated and technically demanding music. The focus is the four-part "Blind Leaving the Blind" suite, which is through-composed for vocals and bluegrass instrumentation. The story is very personal and moving and the instrumental sections are mind-blowing. It took a few listens to really grow on me, but once I got into it, I couldn't help but be amazed. As I said, the stand-out is the entirety of "The Blind Leaving the Blind."

Other honorable mentions go to Weezer, especially for "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived," one of my favorite songs all year. Also, She & Him - Volume One was a great record made by Zooey Deschanel and M.Ward that I really enjoyed. Blitzen Trapper made a good record that I unfortunately got too late to give an honest chance to. I also really loved Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins and it came incredibly close to making the list. I can't quite figure out people's fascination with Bon Iver, but maybe I'll keep listening and it will hit me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We Meet Again

I don't think anybody visited here frequently to begin with. That coupled with my sporadic posting habits probably creates a situation of increasing loneliness here. Oh well, for the potential visitor, I've got some new music recommendations for you at last. 2008 has not been the bearer of a massive amount of new music, but the records I have heard have been pretty great.

First off, go buy the new Dr. Dog album. It's lots of fun. I still like it, even after hearing it at work every day for the last two or three weeks.

If, for whatever reason, you don't have the new Hold Steady album, I highly recommend it. I don't think it's quite as good as Boys and Girls in America, but it's still excellent. I saw them play a couple of weeks ago at the Rialto Theatre and they tore the place apart. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen.

If you like bluegrass, pick up the new Dan Tyminski record. It's straightforward and pretty traditional, but there's nothing wrong with that when you play great bluegrass. A good mix of slow country tunes and some faster picking numbers.

Ben Folds and Regina Spektor just released a fantastic single. I hope this bodes of more collaboration to come. Their styles mesh so well. I hadn't really thought of it before, but Regina Spektor seems like a kind of female extension of what Ben Folds started in the mid-90s, taking that simple piano-pop format and adding her own unique brand of quirkiness to it.

In soundtrack land, the record from Wall-E is top-notch. It was one of the most unique and fitting soundtracks I've heard since There Will Be Blood. It also features a great Peter Gabriel song at the end.

Peter Gabriel's Big Blue Ball is really good. It's been out for a little while, but I haven't plugged it. Similarly, Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut record is AWESOME. I like it a lot.

As for upcoming music, be on the lookout for the new Calexico record in September. They're Tucson's best band, in my opinion, so I've got to support the local flavor. The Decemberists are going to be releasing a series of singles throughout the last few months of the year and are purportedly working on a new record.

Other great news, it looks as though Meg White may be overcoming her anxiety. It's said that she showed up briefly during a Raconteurs concert. Maybe the White Stripes will tour again? They've already started working on another record. There have been rumors of another Jack White band as well, so lots of things to anticipate from them. He's also working with Alicia Keys on the theme song to the new James Bond movie. Weird pairing, no? I'm still excited to hear it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

To Zune Marketplace Users

It's not a mixtape if it's comprised of seven-song chunks from only two artists.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Setting Things Straight

Weezer just put another color-titled album out and I'm enjoying it. Pretentious folks like to whine and complain about how badly Weezer has burned out since Pinkerton, but I really have to disagree. Nearly every one of their records has offered roughly the same fare (with the exception of some of Make Believe's weirder songs): pop songs with less-than-profound lyrics and incredibly catchy tunes. That's why you listen to Weezer. They're fun songs that you can sing along to, much like the ones Cuomo references in Pork and Beans. Honestly, I'm pretty sure he doesn't need Timbaland to help him figure that formula out. Maybe I'm outing myself here, but I still enjoy listening to the Green Album, Maldroit, and on occasion, even Make Believe. It's good music.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Music Site

Just to keep people informed, I have a new Myspace page for my music. If you're interested in hearing it, head over to and music should start playing automatically. It's not high quality, but it's a start.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Great Show

Hey, I like this show a lot and I think you should check out their website. It would take a long time to sift through their archives, but I really appreciate that they keep the whole thing online. It's a great show if you like folk music.