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.

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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!

Geof’s New Music: 13-19 Jul 2008

This week has two new studio releases: one that everyone has, and the other one that BMG sent me when I missed the chance to reply no. Hey, I’ll take the chance.

Last week was a very good return to form:

  • My Brightest Diamond’s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth. Nothing on A Thousand Shark’s Teeth ever grabbed me like “Golden Star” off of Bring Me the Workhorse did, but “Ice & The Storm” comes close. There’s no doubt that Shara Worden is quite ridiculously talented, but it feels on this one that she’s so there and I’m so … here, with little connection. All in all, it’s a solid effort, though. Three stars.
  • Sigur Rós’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. Brad asked me what I thought of the new Sigur Rós pretty quickly after GNM went up last week, so I sat down and listened to it on Sunday night [which watching baseball, which was quite the dissonant experience, I assure you]. It’s … definitely quite different from what I have of their catalogue to date. I understand the criticisms of it in terms of why people don’t like the more straightforward pop direction this album took, but I’m a firm believer that bands have to experiment lest they [and/or their fans] become totally bored with the thing. Style changes notwithstanding, it’s still very much Sigur Rós—I’d recognize Jónsi’s vocals anywhere—and that’s a good thing. Bands that don’t experiment don’t grow, and bands that don’t grow die. [Unless, of course, you’re the Rolling Stones, but then Keith Richards has to be pickled from all the crap he’s ingested over the years.] Three-and-a-half stars, and it could grow on me even more.
  • 21 Apr 2002 [Toronto, ON, Canada] concert bootleg of Wilco. The set starts off with “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, which is weird given their current sound. It’s also pre-Glenn and pre-Mikael, so it’s just an overall different feel—more straightforward than present-day Wilco [my favorite incarnation of the band]. This is a fine-sounding audience recording, which is great given its age [and how blessed we Wilco fans are with the fine rigs folks bring to shows these days]. I give it three stars.
  • 14 Nov 2003 [Los Angeles, CA, USA] concert bootleg of Death Cab for Cutie. Thin, reedy, and distant. Two-and-a-half stars.
  • 22 Apr 2005 [St. Paul, MN, USA] concert bootleg of M. Ward. The show starts out slow, and the recording is about a B-, but it’s enjoyable. Three-and-a-half stars.
  • 5 Nov 2005 [Dayton, OH, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. The Canal Street Tavern is where I first saw OtR live, in a city I used to call home, so all those shows hold a special place in my heart. [I want to see a CST OtR show in 2008 or 2009 with Lara if she’s still in Ohio then.] This is a fine, fine recording. Four stars.
  • 2008-05-04: Derek and Sandra 4 May 2008 [Birmingham, AL, USA] concert bootleg of Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken. I wish that I’d gotten a board feed of this show, because the AT2021s don’t really get lows. Of course, this works fine for acoustic singer/songwriter-y stuff, but the end result still sounds a little thin. But it sounds pretty great. Three-and-a-half stars.