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.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Numbers and Numbers

The week of counting is done. My store did inventory this week and I was part of the pre-count team, also known as an exercise in futility. It's also known as "making your employees go stir crazy." It involved going from bay to bay, counting every book in the bloody store one by one. I had to count books so that the team of inventory people from the outside could check their numbers against ours. Glad that's done with.
My interview with Amity went well and I'm optimistic about getting a job over there. They've been asking me for additional references, so that's hopefully a good sign. I should know by the 16th whether or not I'll have a job.
There has been a dearth of new music of late, as I mentioned last time. The band Gossip is kind of interesting, as it sounds like punk music with a soul singer. She's a big girl.
Iron Man is a good movie and I don't have any trouble recommending it. It's at least a head above most of the superhero movies I've seen recently. Their attempts at humor actually succeeded and it looks very lovely. The story is predictable, but that's par for the course. You're going to see Iron Man fly around and blow some stuff up and it delivers well. Robert Downey Jr. did a surprisingly good job in this role and I like Gwenyth Paltrow.
On the book front, After Dark by Haruki Murakami just came out in paperback, so go buy it. It's fantastic. I'm reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. It's my first real experience reading short stories apart from school assignments. It's pretty enjoyable.
Hope everyone's well.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I'd like to take back some of the unkind things I may have said about Rilo Kiley's most recent album, Under the Blacklight. I still don't think it's as good as More Adventurous, but it also isn't really as bad as I thought to begin with. Actually, some of the songs on it are pretty darn good. There have been very few records coming out that I feel like recommending lately. Visiter by The Dodos is pretty awesome. Also, Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) put out a live solo CD that isn't half bad. The newest Raconteurs album is also highly recommended. Other than those, I haven't heard anything really exciting in a while.
I've got an interview with the Amity corporation on Thursday, so wish me luck. If I get this job, I could very well be going back to Japan. That's exciting!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Going Nowhere

I got my Zune and I'm happy with it....but the software is just atrocious. Honestly, if anybody has any suggestions for how to circumvent the Zune software or subjugate it to my will, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A tad uneasy...

Well, after three weeks or so, Blogger has FINALLY decided to unlock this blog. After my first post, I was flagged as a possible spam blog and locked out of making any changes to it. I sent a request for an unlock three times and posted requests on their forums before something was eventually done about it. Oh well, at least it got unlocked.

There actually isn't all that much to update you on. I'm going to be traveling to Oaxaca in a little under two months, so preparations for that are underway. Applications for work in Japan are being received and reviewed. Hopefully something will come of it.

In other news, I had my car broken into on Saturday night and various things stolen, among them my cell phone. If I haven't emailed you about getting your phone number, feel free to send it to me in whatever secure fashion you prefer. Other than that, I'm just trying to replace some items. Looks like I'll be switching to the Zune, so if any of you use those, let me know and we can share music.

Speaking of music, I'd like to recommend a couple of records. "Consolers of the Lonely" by the Raconteurs is really good. Also try to find the new Dodos album. It's good. If you haven't seen Sweeney Todd, go check it out, it came out on DVD last week. I know Barnes & Noble (plug) is having a sale if you buy the DVD and the soundtrack together.

Book recommendations: After Dark by Haruki Murakami is excellent (as are all of his books). Right now, I'm reading the Nobel prize-winning A Quiet Life by Kenzaburo Oe and enjoying it very much. I'm also in the middle of 1776 by David McCullough. All recommended highly.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Start Over

Following a general trend, I'm emigrating from Xanga. Their interface is becoming increasingly cluttered and difficult to navigate so I really appreciate Blogger's simplicity.

This will be my general web-log from now on and I'll try to keep you updated with what's going on as well as things like music or book reviews. General music recommendations I'd like to make now are as follows: Vampire Weekend, Punch Brothers, Explosions in the Sky, and Stars.

The Raconteurs announced on Monday that they'll be releasing their second week. Yeah, they gave a week's notice. Leave it to Jack White to pull such a fantastic move. They honestly recorded an album at the beginning of March and will release it before the same month is out. Needless to say, I'm incredible excited about it. Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core is due out the same day, so I should be kept entertained for some time.

In other news, I'm still working the grind at Barnes & Noble and looking for some alternative employment. I've been looking at some interesting positions in Japan, teaching English in public schools. Hopefully something like that will work out. Surprisingly, I've managed to keep fairly well to a regular exercise routine. I manage to get busy enough to miss every once in a while, but usually, I'm at the gym a few times a week. Discipline is necessary! I'm trying to develop more of that in every aspect of my life.

Leave me a comment and tell me how you're all doing!