Albums I Have Loved in 2009

This wouldn’t be a proper “here’s what I’ve been listening to” without a GeofCast episode, right? 🙂 Listen while you read.

[display_podcast]

Let’s follow last year’s mojo:

  • Date is in the range: 01 Jan 2009 – 25 Dec 2009. Any cutoff point is arbitrary, but this makes sense to me. I’ve been willfully listening to Christmas music lately, so this helps hold the list growth down.
  • Kind does not contain AIFF [to filter out unprocessed bootlegs and demos].
  • Album Rating is greater than three stars.
  • Genre does not contain Concert Bootleg.

This list is unoptimized; it’s actually done in alphabetical order by artist. At the end, I’ll give a best-of list, countdown style. Because I like embracing constraints, I’ll give a one-sentence statement about each album as to why it’s just so darn good. If you’ve ever talked to me for longer than 90 seconds, you know that one sentence is an unreal constraint.

  1. Wilco (The Album), Wilco. There are so many good songs on this album, but I thought I’d start with the opening track—it’s a treatise for the record and, frankly, for Wilco as a band at this point.

    Are you under the impression
    This isn’t your life?
    Do you dabble in depression?
    Is someone twisting a knife in your back?
    Are you being attacked?
    Oh, this is a fact that you need to know

    Oh

    Wilco
    Wilco
    Wilco will love you baby

    As someone who “dabbles in depression”, yeah, I love this track … and this album … and this band.

  2. Andrew Osenga - Letters to the Editor, Vol. I and II Letters to the Editor, Vol. I and II, Andrew Osenga. Yes, this is a compilation of tracks that he gave away for free; if you’re cheap, you can get Volume I and Volume II online still. But if you like it, buy the disc and support independent music. I chose “Staring Out a Window (My Confession)” because it just hits home for me.
  3. Stockholm Syndrome, Derek Webb. Okay, you can argue that, as a friend of Derek’s and one of the three guys behind derekwebb.net, I’m predisposed to loving his music. You’re right. But this is a worthy buy for the following reasons: a) it tackles prickly issues of sexuality that most Christians are uncomfortable dealing with b) Fred Phelps gets made fun of c) it’s Derek and Josh Moore doing their best Gnarls Barkley impersonation, without sounding like a cheap knockoff and d) he says “shit” on the record and gets away with it. Sorta. I picked “The Spirit Vs. The Kick Drum” because it’s just a kickin’ little track.
  4. The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists. Many long-time Decemberists fans [of which I cannot claim to be; I’m late to the game] would argue that they feared what being on a major record label would do to their music. But give Capitol all the credit in the world for letting Portland’s finest put out what lesser reviewers would call a concept album, and what I think of as “literature set to music”. The arc of this album is one unbroken story, and it’s just so well-done, with themes repeated and twisted as the album builds on itself. That makes it difficult to pick out one song, but I chose “The Rake’s Song” because that will tell you whether or not you’ll want to listen to the whole thing.
  5. Noble Beast, Andrew Bird. I really thought that Armchair Apocrypha was going to be the apex of AB’s music for me. I didn’t think that he’d make a better record, but to my ears, he did with Noble Beast. Musically, it’s just so strong: songs with movement are just such a rarity in popular music these days that hearing tracks like “Masterswarm” is simply astonishing. It’s impossible for me to pick out a track I love the most, because I love them all, but I picked “Tenuousness” for this GeofCast episode.

If you made it this far, thanks!

GeofCast Episode 003: 1Q2008

This is the episode I originally envisioned for the GeofCast. I’m only 18 months late in getting it out …

  1. “Darkmatter” – Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
  2. “Aftermath” – Five O’Clock People, Temper Temper
  3. “Riga Girls” – The Weepies, Say I Am You
  4. “Change Is Hard” – She & Him, Volume One
  5. “The Things We Can and Cannot Keep” – Alli Rogers, You and the Evening Sky
  6. “Climb On (A Back That’s Strong)” – Caedmon’s Call, 2008-02-24: Philadelphia Biblical University, Langhorne, PA, USA
  7. “Watch Your Mouth” – Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken, Ampersand EP
  8. “Back Yard in Brooklyn” – Nathan Lee, Down at The Rutledge
  9. “Kashmir” – Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

[display_podcast]

Albums I Have Loved in 2008

Let me be clear: I’m cheating and using iTunes here. Specifically …

  • Date is in the range: 01 Jan 2008 – 31 Dec 2008
  • Kind does not contain AIFF [to filter out unprocessed bootlegs and demos].
  • Grouping does not contain Extant [to filter out where I migrated my library off of my old Mac to my new one]; I then did a manual check of the Extants with a similar list and my Musiclogging archives.
  • Album Rating is greater than three stars.
  • Genre does not contain Concert Bootleg. If desired, I’ll cover the best of the best concert bootlegs in a separate post, probably no earlier than Friday because I’m still adding bootlegs. [I am not adding any more studio releases at this point.]

This list is unoptimized; it’s actually done in alphabetical order by artist. At the end, I’ll give a best-of list, countdown style. Because I like embracing constraints, I’ll give a one-sentence statement about each album as to why it’s just so darn good. If you’ve ever talked to me for longer than 90 seconds, you know that one sentence is an unreal constraint.

That’s 47 albums. Yowza! About one a week … that’s a very, very good year.

Now, I’m gonna take it to 11 … and be a bit more verbose.

  1. Radiohead, In Rainbows. There is nothing that I can add to all that has been said about this album, from the distribution to the music itself. I didn’t buy this until it came out on a physical disc [I’m a curmudgeon and have this problem, which I’m hoping to lick in 2009], but this is the album that made me a Radiohead fan, much as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot made me a Wilco fan. Favorite Tracks: “Nude”, “Reckoner”, “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”.
  2. The Weepies, Say I Am You. 2008 was a weird year for me; I spent a lot of it pursuing a relationship that didn’t ultimately work out, and a lot of this album was my soundtrack. This is right in my wheelhouse, to be sure—singer/songwriter-y, acoustic guitar-driven, solid melody and harmony. In a world where In Rainbows doesn’t exist, it’s my best album of the year. Favorite Tracks: “Painting By Chagall”, “Riga Girls”.
  3. Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha. I bought this album on a lark, because it was well-regarded. Some of my best musical purchases are done that way, and this is definitely one of them. I think what gets me about Andrew Bird is that he’s a self-comfortable artist who is willing to experiment and do big things with his sound. The analog to an artist I’m friends with is the amazingness of Jeremy Casella’s Recovery [and if Jerry ever sees this, he’s gonna hit me for putting him and Bird in the same sentence]. This is one of those albums I find myself singing often, and there is no greater tribute to me than that. Favorite Tracks: “Darkmatter”, “Plasticities”, and “Scythian Empires”. I never will forget whistling the last as I was walking through the Nashville airport on my way back from Philly after a whirlwind, 20-hour trip to see Caedmon’s Call play.
  4. Five O'Clock People - Temper Temper Five O’Clock People, Temper Temper. I was a big fan of 5OCP when they were making music in the 1990s, and so I grabbed this as soon as I heard it came out. It was … nothing like their old sound, in a lot of ways, but man, it frickin’ rocks. Favorite Tracks: “Gold Rush”, “Aftermath”, and “February”.
  5. Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple. I had heard all this buzz about Gnarls Barkley, but just … dismissed it for whatever reason. I do that; I’m dumb. But then one day “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” was highlighted on NPR, and I almost had to pull over to the side of the road, I was so blown away. Favorite Tracks: “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul”, “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)”.
  6. Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs. Like with Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, a lot has been made about this record coming out of Ben Gibbard taking residence where Jack Kerouac did at Big Sur. I’m of the mind that creative pursuits are often terribly lonely affairs, so I think this was a good idea. This record brought the lyrical brilliance and nose for melody that Death Cab’s always had, but they also exhibited their musical chops on it, too. For whatever weird reason, I want to draw parallels to this and Elliott Smith’s Figure 8. Favorite Tracks: “I Will Possess Your Heart”, “Cath…”, and “Long Division”.
  7. Iron & Wine, The Shepherd’s Dog. I simply did not think that Sam Beam had this much awesome within him. I am very glad to be wrong. Very, very glad. Favorite Tracks: “House of the Sea”, “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog”, “Peace Beneath the City”.
  8. Tom Brosseau - Live at Largo Tom Brosseau, Late Night at Largo. At this point, you have to mail a check to Tom Brosseau’s management to get a copy. It is worth your time in doing so. I’ve written about Brosseau before, but here he is in a nutshell: North Dakota boy moved to LA that writes about home because he both misses it and hates it, in a way. If you grew up in a cold climate and have moved to warmer latitudes, you know where he’s coming from. His music has a sense of ironic detachment, but it’s also just plain good. Also, he sings so high that he makes Thom Yorke in falsetto sound like Barry White. Favorite Tracks: “Rose”, “Broken Ukulele”, and “Young and Free”.
  9. Matt Costa, Unfamiliar Faces. Okay, I’ve got a thing for young guys who write songs about not getting the girl, or getting the girl and losing the girl, but … dude, this guy can rock it up. Favorite Tracks: “Emergency Call”, “Heart of Stone”, and “Miss Magnolia”.
  10. Matthew Perryman Jones, Swallow the Sea. Unlike most years, this is the only time when an artist I personally know appears on the list. I think that most of that is because I’m becoming harder on my friends’ more recent albums, honestly. 😉 But MPJ made a killer, killer record here, a worthy followup to Throwing Punches in the Dark, which I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to top. He topped it, though. Favorite Tracks: “Save You”, “Motherless Child”, and “Feels Like Letting Go”.
  11. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV. There is nothing I can add to this that hasn’t been said, eh? This is my favorite Zep album, even if it doesn’t have all of my favorite songs. Favorite Tracks: “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “Stairway to Heaven”. I mean, duh.

What about you? Do you have some of these records and violently disagree? Did I overlook something to the point that you’re ready to shake me for not listening to it? I wanna know.

Geof’s New Music: 23-29 Mar 2008

This week sees a couple long-awaited studio releases for me: one that just hit the streets, and another that I just never got around to getting:

Last week:

  • Alli Rogers - You and the Evening Sky Alli Rogers’s You and the Evening Sky. Is it legal to say that you don’t like Don Chaffer’s production? [I kiddingly ask, but only because I have friends who are both fans and fellow musicians with the male half of Waterdeep, and well … they all might string me up.] But I hear the production on “Carry a Light” and am … sorta turned off. But I guess I’m wrapped up in this visage of Alli as this guitar-bearing songstress … which she is, but that doesn’t stand up to being very interesting for 13 tracks on a CD, even for the best singer/songwriters. But it gets better from there; I really like what he does with the rest of the record. “At Sea” and “The Things We Can and Cannot Keep” are, for me, the highlights. Four stars.
  • 30 Mar 1996 [New York, NY, USA] concert bootleg of Elliott Smith. Admittedly, I’m blessed with the awesomeness that is the present era of concert bootlegging, but even for the era and technology, this is a pretty meh show. Two stars.
  • The Weepies - 20040918 - cover 18 Sep 2004 [North Olmsted, OH, USA] concert bootleg of The Weepies. Highly, highly recommended! Sounds fantastic, even for being a soundboard. [I typically find SBDs to be flat and lifeless.] Four-and-a-half stars.
  • Andrew Bird - 20070504 - cover 4 May 2007 [Portland, OR, USA] concert bootleg of Andrew Bird. Oh my, this recording’s terrible. This is only recommended for completionists. Two stars, barely.
  • Over the Rhine - 20070608 - cover 8 Jun 2007 [Nashville, TN, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. Noisy, indistinct, and overly bassy. One of these years, I’m gonna record them in that room and it’ll sound fantastic. Maybe I won’t have a terrible cough, either. Two-and-a-half stars.
  • 5 Oct 2007 [London, England] concert bootleg of Son Volt. What the heck? A Son Volt bootleg that doesn’t suck? No matter what you think of the Uncle Tupelo breakup, Jeff clearly got the support of the killer tapers. But this recording sparkles, and it’s done with binaurals, which impresses me even more. Four stars.
  • Wilco - 20080219 - cover 19 Feb 2008 [Chicago, IL, USA] concert bootleg of Wilco. Nels Cline’s solo during “Impossible Germany” never fails to make me smile. 🙂 Another solid recording from the Riv residency. Four stars.

Geof’s New Music: 16-22 Mar 2008

No real intro this week. I’m spending time and energy this week getting a new hard drive on my new mini and getting all the music off of my old mini. Such are the joys of having a 200GB+ music collection…

Last week was very, very good to me:

  • Five O’Clock People - Temper Temper Five O’Clock People’s Temper Temper. Simply fantastic. I hadn’t been listening to the stuff on their MySpace, so I wasn’t prepared for the shift to a bit more of a modern rock sound [in spots], but … very nice. Four stars.
  • Led Zeppelin - Coda Led Zeppelin’s Coda. Okay, so we all know what this album is: an album put together by the remnants of Zep after David Bonham’s sad death. I … just kinda wish this hadn’t been made. :shrug: Two-and-a-half stars. I need to get Houses of the Holy so I can finish my tour through the LZ catalog on an up note.
  • 2 Mar 1992 [New Haven, CT, USA] concert bootleg of Uncle Tupelo. Two-and-a-half stars. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m burned out on Uncle Tupelo or if I’ve just been babied by superior bootlegging technology.
  • 11 Feb 2005 [Richmond, VA, USA] concert bootleg of Caedmon’s Call. It’s a soundboard, Danielle’s not there, and it sounds flat to me. It’s good, but this is one of those recordings that reminds me why I generally prefer AUDs to SBDs. [No, really, I do.] Three stars.
  • 14 Dec 2006 [Nashville, TN, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. It’s pretty meh. That was definitely not the best recording environment, nor the best recording setup. Two-and-a-half stars.
  • Sandra McCracken - 20070316 - cover 16 Mar 2007 [Nashville, TN, USA] concert bootleg of Sandra McCracken. As I listened to this one, I thought about two things: one, thanks to Stephen Lamb for babysitting my recorder that night so I could walk around and take photos all night, and two, man, do I wish that I’d had a bass roll-off for this show. If I had, it would be as good as I could get out of single-point stereo omnidirectional microphone. Three stars.
  • Wilco - 20080218 - cover 18 Feb 2008 [Chicago, IL, USA] concert bootleg of Wilco. Fan-fucking-tastic. That’s it. The second disc … my oh my. Four-and-a-half stars. This is why I prefer AUDs.