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: 4-10 May 2008

Last week:

  • The Weepies - Hideaway The Weepies’ Hideaway. This one did not grab me the way that Say I Am You did, but I’ve also not given it car/road trip time. I will be correcting that this weekend. Three-and-a-half stars, and I expect that’ll rise.
  • Carole King’s Tapestry (Legacy Edition). This was a bit of an impulse buy, although it was well-regarded in last month’s Paste. Very much worth my money. Four stars.
  • 18 Feb 1997 [Ottawa, ON, Canada] concert bootleg of Wilco. It’s hard to believe that this was recorded onto tape, at least for me. It sounds quite good! Three-and-a-half stars.
  • 26 Aug 2005 [Lexington, KY, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. Oh my holy heck. This is a fine, fine, fine recording. If you like Ohio and Drunkard’s Prayer, GRAB IT. Four-and-a-half stars.
  • Cover art for a bootleg of their 15 Mar 2008 concert in Austin, Texas. 15 Mar 2008 [Austin, TX, USA] concert bootleg of M. Ward and Jim James. Sadly, during Matt’s solo stuff, the recording is very distant sounding, which is surprising for Church Audio cardioids; must’ve been a hard room to record. I give it three stars.
  • Derek Webb - 20080404 cover 4 Apr 2008 [Dyersburg, TN, USA] concert bootleg of Derek Webb. I’m happy with how this one came out; I’m giving it four stars only because the songs off of The Ringing Bell really deserve to have a band behind them. I understand why that didn’t happen on this tour, but man … if Derek had been able to have Todd, Garett, Jeff, Josh, and Andrew backing him on these songs … that would have been awesome. Anyhow, some folks would probably like more of the SBD in this mix, but I’m a fan of how a recording actually sounds in a room. For those people, I’ve seeded the SBD and AUD recordings in their uncut forms on IndieRiver; they can do with it what they like.
  • Caedmon's Call - 20080404 4 Apr 2008 [Dyersburg, TN, USA] concert bootleg of Caedmon’s Call. The longer I think about this, the more I think about re-mastering it. It just could be better. That said, it’s decent. Three-and-a-half stars, mainly because of Andy O’s two killer guitar solos. That kid really can shred.

Geof’s New Music: 27 Apr – 3 May 2008

Surprisingly, I was able to hold out on listening to The Weepies’ new record until this week, despite having it Tuesday. Discipline, or something. 🙂

Last week was good in the studio spots, meh otherwise: